Enigma is a film by Michael Apted that was released in 2001, based on the 1995 novel by Robert Harris. Both are fictionalized accounts of the British code-breaking efforts at Bletchley Park in 1943. Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott) played a big part in breaking an important code earlier; now he is returning to Bletchley Park after a nervous breakdown to take part in a new effort, although there are indications that he is just there for show. His girlfriend Claire (Saffron Burrows) is missing, and he and Claire's roommate Hester (Kate Winslet) try to solve the mystery of her disappearance.
I recently read the book and enjoyed it very much; my review is here.
Did I enjoy the film?
This was my second viewing of the film. I don't remember that much from the first viewing and I suspect I might have enjoyed it more if I had read the book first. This time around I did enjoy it very much. I liked the acting. In addition to the main actors mentioned above, I enjoyed the acting of Jeremy Northam as an intelligence agent, Tom Hollander as another member of the code-breaking team, and Matthew Macfadyen as a naval officer who had been badly burned.
One negative aspect of a book to film review is that I usually read the book and watch the film back to back. In that situation, I tend to nitpick at details while watching the film. This second viewing may have been one of those times when I was watching too much for discrepancies and not immersing myself in the film enough. Regardless, overall I liked a lot about the film and we will be watching it again.
Did the film represent the book fairly or well?
Some reviewers noted places where the film was not true to historical facts. Both the book and the film were supposed to be fiction, so that was not a problem for me. I don't know much of the real history of Bletchley or the code breaking effort, so I wasn't looking for errors, nor was I expecting to learn the strict facts of what happened from either the book or the film.
I was disappointed that the character of Hester Wallace was so changed in the film. Both versions show the discrepancy between the roles of women and men in work like this, and emphasize Hester's frustration at doing more clerical work, and not having the opportunity to work on code breaking. However, the nature of Hester's and Tom's relationship is very different in the book. I prefer not to go into more detail about that for the benefit of those who have not seen the book or the film. Overall, I did not feel that this change marred the film.
While a film usually cannot get into the characters and their relationships (and thoughts) as well as a book does, a film can portray action in a clearer and more effective way. The war scenes that can only be imagined while reading the book are given more reality in the film version.
Given that changes are always necessary to make a novel conform to the needs of film, I found the changes made for this film acceptable. The film focused much more on the espionage subplot, and spent less time portraying actual conditions at Bletchley. I like the portrayal of characters and relationships better in the book. The film had more to offer in action and pacing. I felt that both stood well on their own.
This film review is submitted for the 2014 Book to Movie Challenge at Doing Dewey.