Thursday, February 22, 2007

Movie Review and a Book Review: Enigma

Yes, I changed the template. I'm too lazy to use anything but the pre-loaded blogger layouts, but that pink one was beginning to get old. I thought the blue here was soothing, so there you go.

In other news, I recently rewatched Enigma (a movie from 2001), which led to me reading the book it was based on, also Enigma, by Robert Harris.

The Movie
I was impressed with this the first time I watched it, and it holds up really well. The script was written by Tom Stoppard (who wrote Shakespeare in Love, along with a slew of famous plays such as Arcadia, Jumpers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead...). However, the film is incredibly conventional for Stoppard (the storytelling is quite linear and no one ends the movie with a pineapple on their head). But it's a good conventional, in that we get effective storytelling and character development. The acting is solid, led by Dougray Scott as a cryptanalyst, Tom Jericho, working on breaking the German submarine enigma code. He enlists the help of Hester (Kate Winslet) to unravel another puzzle: the disappearance of Tom's former girlfriend, Claire (Saffron Burrows). Both Tom and Hester have to dodge the questions of an oily investigator (Jeremy Northam) who is looking into Claire's whereabouts. And then somehow all this gets dropped into the middle of one of the largest convoy battles of World War II. The story sounds more contrived than it is (or maybe the movie just does a really good job of selling it). The film is quiet and simple, acting like a modest slice of life movie that just happens to also be a war movie. As an added plus, we get some great British character acting, including Matthew Macfadyen (2005's Pride and Prejudice) and Tom Hollander (2005's Pride and Prejudice, and PotC: Dead Man's Chest).

The Book
I was surprised by how similar the movie is to the book. The two are extremely close, except for a brief departure at the very end. Regardless, the book is a different experience, dwelling on details a little longer, and really probing the character of Tom. But the language remains frugal and effective, so this close characterization isn't overdone. My one qualm upon comparing the book and the movie is that Hester is a much stronger character in the latter. The book is really Tom's story, while the movie is more about Tom and Hester. I sort of like the movie's focus more. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this read.

There is one historical note to all of the above. The man actually responsible for many of the British breakthroughs with enigma was Alan Turing, a pioneer of computer science and a man prosecuted for being a homosexual. He was a fascinating person himself, but this book and movie are not at all about him. They are pure fiction.

2 comments:

songinhersky said...

oooh, another movie to add to my netflix queue!!

songinhersky said...

and i like the new format! it is quite soothing!