Enigma (2001)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Kate Winslet, Dougray Scott, Jeremy Northam
Extras: Trailers

Based on the bestselling novel by author Robert Harris, "Enigma" follows in the long line of film adaptations that fail to live up to their promise and potential. Adding insult to injury, Columbia TriStar’s DVD is an appalling mess.

Enigma was the Allied codename for the encryption scheme used by the Germans during World War Two. Due to the hard work of the largely forgotten codebreakers who inhabited Bletchley Park just outside of London as well as the courageous Poles who secured an actual Enigma machine during the German blitzkrieg attack on their country, the Allies spent the better part of the war reading intercepted German codes at will.

Dougray Scott stars as Tom Jericho, a codebreaker who returns to Bletchley Park after a nervous breakdown brought about by his failed relationship with the mysterious Claire Romilly (Saffron Burrows). Called back to duty due to an abrupt change in the German code that renders futile all attempts to read the enemy intercepts, Jericho’s mind is divided between cracking the new code and discovering what happened to the recently disappeared Claire.

Helping on both fronts is Claire’s flatmate, Hester Wallace (Kate Winslet), who bristles at the lack of respect she’s shown in the male-dominated world and is only too eager to break the rules in the search for some real answers. Meanwhile, special investigator Wigram (Jeremy Northam) is hot on their trail as he tries to piece together exactly who it is at Bletchley Park that appears to have turned traitor.

Adapted for the screen by Tom Stoppard and directed by Michael Apted, "Enigma" has a gritty, realistic feel but it seems to completely miss the point of the book. Whereas the novel went to great lengths to explain the intricacies of Enigma and codebreaking in general, the film at best glosses over many of the finer details and seems determined to be more of a love story than a thriller. This isn’t in itself a bad thing but the book did such an amazing job of explaining a very difficult and largely unknown subject that it’s a real shame that very little of this made its way to the screen.

Presented in 2.35:1 <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen>, "Enigma" boasts one of the worst transfers for a newer film that I’ve seen. The image is very grainy and while this may well be a stylistic choice the end result is a picture that lacks fine detail and is overly soft. Worse yet, the transfer is plagued by compression artifacts, edge enhancement, moire effects, and shimmering to such a degree as to be distracting from start to finish. Throw in very weak color depth and black levels and the end result is an almost complete mess. Sure it’s still watchable but that doesn’t excuse this type of mistreatment.

Audio comes in a somewhat bland English <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 mix>. While dialogue is always clearly understood, little effort was made to take advantage of the surround and LFE channels to breath some life into the mix. John Barry’s musical score does come across fairly well but the rest is rather dull.

The only extras on the disc are a few theatrical trailers. For a film that touches upon such an important yet almost completely overlooked facet of World War Two, the lack of any bonus features that might help explain both the film and the history behind it is shocking. But wait, in what’s fast becoming a Columbia TriStar staple, a new special edition DVD is already in the works so why even bother with this mess of a disc?

What more is there to say? The film itself is rather disappointing and this slipshod excuse for a DVD does nothing to improve matters. Do yourself a favor and read the book. Perhaps in its next incarnation the "Enigma" DVD might have something to offer but as things stand this is at best a rental.