Film and TV

Tales From the Cryptologist

There is more than a little of A Beautiful Mind's John Nash in Tom Jericho, the hero of Michael Apted's World War II-era romantic thriller. Both men are brilliant mathematicians, breaking military codes for the government while hovering on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Nash, of course, was a real person whose film persona only imagined he was engaged in important code-breaking activities, while Jericho is a fictional character set against the very real story of British cryptographers struggling against enormous odds to break the Nazi's infamous Enigma code. Rather than present a straightforward account of the real events, the movie, based on a best-selling British novel, throws in a love story involving the heartbroken genius, the mysterious beauty who ditched him and then vanished, accusations of treason, and the beauty's frumpy roommate who helps the mathematician solve the case. The technical explanations are impossible to follow and Jericho's brilliant sleuthing regarding the missing girlfriend stretches credulity, but the acting is top-notch. Dougray Scott scores a bull's-eye as Jericho, conveying convincing intellectual acumen as well as a sense of deep emotional vulnerability (and he's sexy as hell). Kate Winslet makes any character interesting, and Jeremy Northam, as a slick British secret service agent with an insinuating manner and a perpetual sneer, is marvelous as always.
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Jean Oppenheimer