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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Interviews

Enigma

Magna/Magna . R4 . COLOR . 114 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Without pretending to be any sort of expert on the subject, I think it would be fair to say there are many, many people whose contributions to their countries during World War II have remained unsung. Enigma sort of focuses on a vast group of such people, whose efforts, which apparently pretty much turned the tide of the war in favour of the Allies, were not known outside their own circle until the 1970s when the British Official Secrets Act divulged just what went on at the mysteriously named Station X. It’s also very much a kind of romance as well, with a healthy dose of intrigue and thriller-esque tension to help propel things along.

So, what went on at Station X, the Victorian estate Bletchley Park? Well, it was a centre which concentrated on code breaking. The Germans had an encoding machine known as the Enigma, a remarkably complex typewriter-like device with all manner of lights, rotors and other doobries attached. A different key encryption code was used regularly, meaning that any interceptions of radio signals would seem to be random gobbledygook – that is until the code was cracked after ten months of intensive work, by the “hero” of our story, Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott). After managing this remarkable feat (the machine apparently had 150 million, million, million possible combinations!), he kind of lost the plot over a rather enigmatic (appropriately) woman named Claire (Saffron Burrows), but with the Germans somehow getting wind that their code has been broken and changing their encryption methods accordingly, and the folk at Bletchley Park left scratching their heads, he’s been recalled to duty – regardless of concerns over his mental state.

His obsession with Claire soon resurfaces, as she tends to haunt his every move – and not least of all because she has been reported missing. Upon breaking into her cottage to do a spot of amateur sleuthing, he is confronted by Claire’s housemate, Hester (a very pregnant Kate Winslet), but not before he discovers that his flame had been up to some rather naughty things. The fabulously studious Hester gets caught up in the intrigue and the pair teams up in an attempt to get to the bottom of just what Claire was involved in, and indeed what has happened to her – all the while trying to avoid the clutches of a somewhat inquisitive Special Intelligence agent named Wigram (Jeremy Northam), as well as working on breaking the elusive new code before a fleet of Allied supply ships is confronted by a bevy of U-boats.

Perhaps a little slow to unwind for those who expect films to burst out of the blocks like a hyperactive 100 metre sprinter, those who don’t mind sitting back and letting things take their course should find a lot to like in Enigma. Quite the Enid Blyton-styled adventure – in the Famous Five sense rather than The Magic Faraway Tree, of course – director Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough, the 7-Up etc series) takes his sweet time with Tom Stoppard’s script (based on the novel by Robert Harris), but manages to entwine enough suspense, romance and intrigue elements to have those who are into a deftly played out film of this type caught up in all the goings on before they even realise it. Performances from the two leads are fabulous, notably Kate Winslet doing things somewhat more dowdily than usual and making a wonderful fist of it, and a fine supporting cast make this film quite a wonderful surprise. Oh, and cameo spotters may wish to keep an eye out for one Mick Jagger (who wore a producer’s hat for Enigma) in a dance hall scene...

  Video
Contract

Let’s get the biggest disappointment out of the way first, shall we? Enigma is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. SO why’s this a disappointment? Well, the film was presented theatrically at 2.35:1, and this release sees things severely cropped at the sides, rather than being open matted – as evidenced by snippets of the film in its correct ratio that are included in the bonus featurette (not to mention the way things open up for the end credits). As such everything tends to be rather cramped and claustrophobic compared to how it was originally intended to be seen. In all fairness it must be said that this isn’t unique to Magna’s region 4 release, in fact the European version, released through Buena Vista, appears to suffer the same unfortunate fate.

Other than that, things are fairly good in the visual department. Unwanted intruders such as flecks, specks and scratches are rarely spied, although some scenes exhibit a little grain. Colour-wise it’s all, well; quite English really, with what could only really be described as a somewhat drab palette, although the occasional splash of a little more vibrancy does shake things up a tad. Black levels are very good, and while the picture does have a slight tendency towards being dark at times, detail never suffers abominably. The layer change is placed mid scene in a static spot. It’s a reasonable place to have chosen to put it, but it does tend to be rather obvious.

  Audio
Contract

Two audio tracks are supplied, Dolby Digital 5.1 and also 2.0. Enigma doesn’t exactly have the type of soundtrack to set a six speaker system bopping away wildly, with surrounds used mainly for bolstering the quite sumptuous and evocative musical work by John Barry (of 007 scoring fame). There’s some directional activity along the front, but nothing overly exciting – and it isn’t really needed, either. The subwoofwoof gets a few bangs and booms to play with, but generally remains quite sedate throughout the film. Meanwhile, the 2.0 soundtrack is serviceable, however naturally if you have the ability to support 5.1 you won’t have any call to go near it. No matter which audio track you opt for, synch is spot on, and all is balanced quite delightfully.

  Extras
Contract

Some very apt, subtly animated menus, accompanied by a snippet of John Barry’s excellent score, are featured, and lead on to a reasonable cache of special features...

First up is a featurette, which is rather spartanly entitled About on the menu. Running for a mere 9:03, it has Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and is predominantly full frame, although film clips are all in non-enhanced 2.35:1 – and they look ever so lovely for it. Despite its brevity, this is quite an informative piece that features interviews with lead actors Kate, Dougray, Saffron and Jeremy, plus director Michael Apted and novelist Robert Harris. Oh, and some producer bloke with really big lips named Mick sticks his two bob’s worth in, too.

The inevitable trailer comes next, and my doesn’t it make things look exciting? In a ratio of 1.85:1 with 2.0 audio, it is rather action packed and even carries a voiceover from one of those fun gravely-voiced guys whose one purpose in life is to do trailers. The next option is raw behind the scenes footage, which sums itself up perfectly. With a run time of 10:43, this is a grab bag of shots of cameras, blokes with loudhailers, clapper boards, makeup artists and people just kind of standing around a lot, and focuses quite a bit of time on that aforementioned Mick bloke.

The biographies section holds a nice surprise, for as well as standard textual guff on Kate, Dougray, Saffron, Jeremy and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau in the ‘cast’ part, and Apted, screenwriter Tom Stoppard and producer Lorne Michaels (yes, the Saturday Night Live one), there are also a number of quite decent interviews with most of them – plus Jagger and author Robert Harris. Of varying lengths, they can be played individually or as one, and total 12:23 and 10:11 in length respectively. Each snippet is presented with a text screen listing the question asked, and there is some crossover with those bits used in the featurette.

Finally, there is a quite handy little Easter egg, which gives some history of the enigma machine via a 1:36 interview with the movie’s historical and technical advisor Tony Sale, as well as some textual background on the quite remarkable device. If you don’t feel like hunting about yourself, you can take the easy option and pop by our Easter eggs page to find out how to access it.

  Overall  
Contract

A pleasingly creeping thriller, one that tends to slowly captivate rather than have you riveted from the outset, Enigma certainly has a lot to recommend it as a film. As for the DVD, while the video is quite good technically, many will find the presentation of a 2.35:1 film cropped to 1.78:1 extremely annoying. Sadly, though, it’s about the only option currently, unless region 1 happens to do it right. Audio is perfectly competent for a film which doesn’t throw up any big sonic challenges, and the complement of extras is decent enough, although a commentary from Apted and perhaps some others involved in the production would have been most welcome.

...and there isn’t a Gregorian chant within earshot. Phew!


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1723
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      And I quote...
    "Thriller fans who don’t mind sitting back and letting things take their course should find a lot to like here. It's a crime about the aspect ratio though..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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