I saw Enigma a week ago. We’ve seen many movies about technology come and go, but so far only Enigma deserves a place next to Sneakers as one of the best ever. Some may be bothered that the characters are fictional, but the rest of the movie was so true to the spirit and technology of the time that I easily fell into the story without a thought to Alan Turing’s absence until I left the theater. From the dials and plugs on the Enigma machine, to the explanation of cryptanalysis and the handwritten notes as the code breakers worked out a problem – it all felt real, a refreshing break from the fake computer interfaces usually designed by Hollywood.
That Turing’s story could be great on the big screen, I have no doubt. But Enigma’s story – romance, cryptography, war – also has its place. The look of the film is perfect, and with dialogue to match. You might recognize Tom Stoppard in the screenplay credit; his other credits include Shakespear in Love, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Empire of the Sun.
When I got home, I searched my bookshelves for other crypto books to supplement the film. Here’s a paragraph from The Code Book, detailing the “weather report” code which was referenced in the film but not entirely explained:
“…experience showed that the Germans sent a regular enciphered weather report shortly after 6 a.m. each day. So, an encrypted message intercepted at 6.05 a.m. would be almost certain to contain wetter, the German word for ‘weather’. The regorous protocol used by any military organisation meant that such messages were highliy regimented in style, so Turing could even be confident about the location of wetter within the encrypted message.”
You gotta love this stuff.