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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Enigma (2002)

"They say you shouldn't fall in love in a war. You never know what's coming."
- Claire (Saffron Burrows)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: November 03, 2002

Stars: Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam, Saffron Burrows
Other Stars: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Tom Hollander, Donald Sumpter, Matthew MacFayden, Richard Leaf
Director: Michael Apted

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for a sex scene and language
Run Time: 01h:58m:40s
Release Date: September 24, 2002
UPC: 043396087347
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+CB+ D

DVD Review

Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott) exits the train in a haze and slowly strolls into Bletchley Park, the site of his grand triumph. Following the recovery of an Enigma machine from a German U-Boat, he helped to crack their unbelievably complex code structure. Unfortunately, personal complications inspired a nasty burnout that removed him from the special countryside institute. Tom suffered from "the Romilly effect"—an onset of mild insanity spurred by relations with the stunning Claire Romilly (Saffron Burrows). Now returning to Bletchley to face a new German threat, his thoughts focus on his former lover.

Based on the novel by Robert Harris, Enigma presents a fictional story about the British World War II codebreakers who played a huge role behind the scenes. Directed in elegant fashion by Michael Apted (Enough, 7 Up documentaries), this film nicely balances historical drama with a tender love story. Immersed within the tale is Claire's mysterious disappearance, which leads to a cat-and-mouse race between Tom and the smarmy detective Wigram (Jeremy Northam). Apted utilizes an effective flashback structure to showcase memories of Claire, whose charm may have masked more sinister aspirations. While searching for her, Tom also faces the incredible challenge of cracking an altered version of the Enigma code. A large merchant convoy faces certain disaster without this solution, and only a few days remain to save them.

Tom's thoughts initially focus only on Claire, but his countenance changes due to a growing bond with the ingenious Hester Wallace (Kate Winslet). Although she lacks the glamour of her former roommate, Hester's intelligence makes her a kindred spirit to Tom's odd personality. Winslet deftly utilizes minor actions, such as adjusting her glasses, to reveal a nervous individual. A stunning actress in her own right, she does a superb job in slowly revealing the charms hidden inside. Working at Bletchley as a glorified file clerk, Hester finally has a chance to play a larger role. It takes him a while to notice, but Tom eventually discovers her remarkable talents.

The central plot about cracking the Enigma code resonates nicely without becoming ridiculously complex. Tom works with a group of quirky individuals who posess considerable knowledge of numbers. Their thought processes are logical and do not suffer the unconvincing plot jumps often inherent in war stories. Tom's activities are complicated by the possibility of a traitorous mole within Bletchley Park. Wigram suspects one of the code breakers, which could also relate to Claire's unexplained disappearance. Plot twists ensue, but everything remains believable and is understandably deciphered. Writer Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) has crafted a graceful screenplay that never insults its audience. Tom, Wigram, and others may act strangely at times, but it all retains a realistic atmosphere.

Dougray Scott shines as Tom Jericho in a difficult role that requires him to look pale and without sleep for much of the film. After playing a nasty villain in Mission Impossible 2, he nicely shifts into more of a bookworm role. The action does become heated near the conclusion, but his movements (especially the silly running) reveal a slightly awkward individual. Winslet matches well with Scott, and their excursion into the country ranks among the story's best scenes. Burrows has little to do but look pretty, and Northam veers a bit too much over the top, but the overall cast is excellent. Many of the supporting characters appear for only a few moments, but they leave a lasting impression.

Enigma takes its time and allows the central characters to develop well beyond the usual conventions. It does sputter a little near the conclusion, where Tom provides a considerable amount of plot exposition. Luckily, these drawbacks are minor and do not lessen the overall effect of the tale. Gorgeous outdoor cinematography and John Barry's lush musical score contribute to the engaging atmosphere and help to generate a memorable film.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Enigma appears in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is surprisingly uninspiring for a recent release. A considerable amount of grain often arises during this uneven presentation, which might have been thrown together far too quickly. Some minor defects and specks of dirt lessen the effect of the poignant story. Moments also occur where the degree of sharpness is muddled and below par. This transfer is not a total failure, but it does rank below the typical major studio release.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Luckily, the audio transfer does improve over its visual counterpart. It utilizes the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital format and offers a clear and understandable listening experience. The main drawing point is John Barry's mournful score, which includes memorable orchestral arrangements. It also uses the surround speakers at times to create a more in-depth sound field. This audio track does not showcase enough complexity to rank among the premier releases, but it does hold its own and present the film effectively.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Enough, XXX
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Enigma was originally slated to be a special edition, but this release offers only a few theatrical trailers. Considering the historical interest of this story, it is almost a necessity to provide more background on the DVD. Grumblings are already arising about a future special edition release, which basically makes this disc pointless.

The Enigma trailer appears in a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer and features the least attractive sound of the three entries. The XXX and Enough previews each offer 1.85:1 widescreen transfers and impressive audio tracks.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Enigma is a film of considerable charm and interest, which makes this minimal DVD release even more disappointing. How can Columbia Tri-Star ignore the possibilities of the World War II era and Bletchley Park? Numerous documentary options exist, and even a basic director's commentary would be more acceptable. These problems are even worse considering the uninspiring image transfer. If the rumors of a future special edition release are true, I would wait to purchase this disc. The film is excellent, but this insulting disc does not warrant the high list price.


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