A brilliant, but troubled, World War II code breaker is called in to help an Allied convoy in danger by cracking a German code, and he also attempts to track down his ex-girlfriend, a suspected traitor, with help from her roommate.
It's 1943, and the Allies are in a pinch. The largest convoy ever to cross the Atlantic has just left America, the Nazi U-boats patrolling the waters have changed their codes and the good guys may be headed straight for a trap if the Brits don't do something fast. England's top decoders working out of its Bletchley Park headquarters near London call on one of their fallen comrades for help, Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott, Mission: Impossible 2), who had been one of the best World War II code breakers in the biz. That is, until his beautiful, enigmatic (pun intended) girlfriend Claire (Saffron Burrows) dumped him, caused him to have a nervous breakdown and then vanished with some much-needed German code. While he's working on those codes, Jericho embarks on an investigation behind Claire's enigmatic disappearance with some help by her mousy-but-spunky roommate, Hester (Kate Winslet, fetching in a brunette 'do and round spectacles). Then there's Wigram (Jeremy Northam), a smarmy British intelligence agent who wants to know exactly what Tom and Hester are up to and suspects they know where Claire went.
Well done on all levels. Winslet makes any character fun, and she seems to enjoy being the frumpy girl who hides behind her Harry Potter glasses but gradually blossoms into, if not a beauty like Claire, a smartly attractive young woman. Scott simmers with heartfelt emotion; devastated and shell-shocked upon leaving the asylum, he slowly begins to put his life together. With his faraway, lovesick gaze and unwitting, lush-lipped pout, Scott looks like he'd be one of those Sensitive Brits who writes poetry and stops to smell the roses, but he shows there's a quick, perceptive mind behind those hooded blue eyes. Northam's perpetually raised eyebrow and quirky sneer help him strike just the right note, not going overboard with his suave nastiness but subtly reminding everyone he's waiting in the wings for the first slip-up. If only the actors were given a less enigmatic plot--but it says a lot for them that they can keep the audience's interest despite a dreary story line.
Uh...guys? There's a war happening...? For all the situation's supposed urgency, there's a lot of sitting around and debating. With Nazis, spies, U-boats, a convoy in trouble and a developing romance, wouldn't you think there'd be a little action going on? That our heroes have only a few days to crack the codes should have them enduring pressure-cooker stress. Instead, they seem to spend most of their time speaking in code themselves, slinging technical jargon around the Bletchley briefing rooms or revealing news they've learned in hushed tones. There's little suspense or trickery to the story that's laid out like a roadmap, with too much time spent on distracting and seemingly pointless subplots. Boring, trite dialogue and drawn-out techie discussions sink whatever potential to excitement this movie has faster than a torpedo could sink a U-boat. It's a pity because you'd think director Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) could have done so much more with such a top-notch cast, a screenplay by Oscar winner Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) and producers Lorne Michaels and Mick Jagger.
Leaden pacing and information overkill do not an action-packed World War II thriller make, but the acting is first-rate.