Enigma Blu-ray Review: Where Have All The Good Spy Movies Gone

Cold War spy flick from the '80s fails to excite.
  |   Comments

Spy movies just haven’t been the same since the Berlin Wall crumbled and Russia turned to capitalism.  Without the communist menace to fight against, spies just don’t know what to do. But back in the '80s, spies had game.  At least in the movies they did.  Some of them anyways. Others like Enigma, the 1982 movie starring Martin Sheen and Sam Neil, have been completely forgotten and with good reason.  

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc, the auteur behind such classics as Jaws 2, Supergirl, and Santa Claus: The Movie, Enigma finds Alex Holbeck (Sheen) an East German dissident living in Paris who runs an anti-Soviet radio show, being recruited by the CIA.  They want him to return to East Berlin in order to steal a computer chip that scrambles communist messages like the old Enigma machine did in World War II.  They need to use this device before Christmas when they’ve learned five dissidents will be killed.

With time being of the essence they figure Alex, who still has numerous contacts in East Germany, will be able to steal the device and get back to the west in plenty of time.  What they don’t count on is that the Russians, led by Dimitri Vasillikov (Neill), are fully aware that Alex is back in East Berlin, though they are not sure of his exact plans.

Like any good spy movie, the plot gets more and more complicated, and convoluted.  Like any bad spy movie, the delineation of that plot  is murky at best.  He hooks up with a former lover (Brigitte Fossey) then talks her into sleeping with the enemy.  She gets tortured and put in an insane asylum for her trouble.  There are a lot of cheap disguises, some fun sort-of location shooting (it was shot in Lille and Strasbourg, both in France), a few good cat-and-mouse chases, and a lot of confusing dialogue.

There is one good twist that I won’t spoil here, but they don’t really do anything interesting with it.  Both Sheen and Neill are pretty good, though this is far from their best work.  Nobody speaks German or even attempts an accent, which is really off-putting considering Sam Neill’s natural blend of Northern Irish and New Zeland mode of speaking.  These things are always a little strange - American films taking place in foreign countries - as they don’t want the characters to only speak a non-English language, and attempted accents can often be quite terrible.  But having everyone speak whatever brand of English accent they naturally take is confusing, especially when trying to differentiate between the Germany and the Russians.

Not that good language skills would have helped this mess of a movie out much.  If you are a huge fan of the actors or a Cold War spy aficionado, then Enigma is worth watching, but for all others there are plenty of other good spy movies to chose from.

MVD Entertainment presents Enigma with a 1.77:1 aspect ratio.  Extras are bare with only a theatrical trailer and photo gallery. 

Follow Us