**½/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras A-
starring Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam, Saffron Burrows
screenplay by Tom Stoppard, based on the novel by Robert Harris
directed by Michael Apted
by Walter Chaw The easy thing to say is that the Mick Jagger-produced Enigma is enigmatic--it's more difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why. Stars Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, and Jeremy Northam are fine, Tom Stoppard's screenplay would on the surface surely seem fine, and Michael Apted's polished, if unremarkable, direction is the very definition of just fine. So the onus must fall on the material adapted, Robert Harris's follow-up to his much-lauded Fatherland, which promised a Ken Follett romantic espionage page-burner while delivering a staid and occasionally incomprehensible period bodice-ripper crushed under the dual gorgons of the sophomore jinx and the Tom Clancy "guess I'm not very good at dialogue" bogey. Enigma's problems begin and end with its inability to overcome the essential faults of its inherited plot, its most interesting aspect--WWII cryptologists at London's Bletchley Park--subsumed by a run-of-the-mill mystery and a never-in-doubt love story. It appears the curse of many historical fictions that attempt to familiarize the "long ago" with a "universal" romantic story arc dooms Enigma's period and historical detail to function as mere decorative flourish.