Socialist Worker

Cracking mystery

by Paul McGarr
Issue No. 1770

ENIGMA IS a war movie that is worth a look. It is fiction, but is based against the background of real events, the successful breaking of the Nazi Enigma code machine by the Allies in the Second World War. It is well acted, with a decent plot, and has a sharp screenplay by playwright Tom Stoppard.

The film captures the sense of time and place brilliantly, as the story unfolds centred on Britain's Bletchley Park wartime base where the codebreakers worked. It manages to give a sense of how mathematicians broke new ground in solving the Nazi codes.

But it also captures the feel of the large-scale organisation of often humdrum and routine work by thousands of others which lay behind their success. Issues ranging from class to ignorant and bullying officers and the role of women in society are all touched on. War is not glorified. There are no surgical strikes here.

The sense that war is what it is, a nasty dirty business where real people get hurt and killed, comes across. This is not an especially profound or political film, but worth seeing for what it is-a well made thriller.

One footnote is worth remembering. The mathematician who in real life played the key role in the codebreaking at Bletchley Park was Alan Turing. Turing was not, however, feted by the British state, despite his immense contribution, and despite his brilliant work laying the basis for most modern computing.

He was gay. And in the post-war years he was persecuted, treated as a potential spy and prosecuted for his sexuality-and finally driven to suicide by that state.

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Article information

Sat 13 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1770
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