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In the Know/A Look at The Week Ahead

'Enigma' Extols War's Ring of Decoders

April 15, 2002

Wartime code breaking has become a popular theme running through today's films. It is a key plot device in this year's Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind," in which Nobel laureate mathematician John Nash, played by Russell Crowe, tries to break a secret code as he struggles with schizophrenia. And it underlies the plot of this summer's John Woo film, "Windtalkers," which follows the exploits of Navajo code-talkers who are recruited as Marines during World War II to frustrate Japanese efforts to break America's secret military codes.

The latest of the code-breaker films opens Friday, as director Michael Apted's World War II thriller "Enigma" makes its U.S. premiere in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. By May, it will be in 150 to 200 theaters across the country.

Produced by "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels and Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger (through the singer's Jagged Films production company), the film is set in Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain gathered to crack the German code. The Tom Stoppard script, based on a Robert Harris novel, tells the story of the Enigma coding machine and the extraordinary challenges to decoding it, paying homage to the unsung mathematicians, linguists and electrical engineers whose work helped shorten the war and accelerated the development of computers.

The film marks the emergence of New York-based distributor Manhattan Pictures International, whose president and CEO, Paul Cohen, calls it "serendipitous" that all three of these movies about code-breakers are coming out in the aftermath of Sept. 11. He said "Enigma" captures the essence of how the "common man" rises up in the face of a great challenge at an important moment in history to accomplish a great task. The film stars Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam and Saffron Burrows.

Compiled by Times staff writers

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