Enigma (15)<br></br>The Score (15)<br></br>Mike Bassett: England Manager (15)<br></br>The Brothers

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The Independent Culture

Enigma (15) is the third film this year, after Enemy At The Gates and Pearl Harbor, to recreate a specific turning point of the Second World War – and then debase it with an extraneous and perfunctory love story. It's set in Bletchley Park, the stately home where German cyphers were unscrambled and the war was shortened, so there's some fascinating material to play with. And indeed, when the assembled boffins get down to work, the film can be gripping. It's just that they don't get down to it very often.

Dougray Scott's twitchy academic is kept from his cryptanalysis by not one, but two, love interests. First there is Saffron Burrows, looking like the template for every glamour girl ever painted on the side of a Flying Fortress. Her disappearance prompts Scott to turn detective, and he's aided and abetted by Kate Winslet, who has a visible pregnancy bump and a pair of Harry Potter specs. Neither romance is developed enough to engage us, so they end up frustrating us instead. Why are we listening to Scott tell Winslet how frightfully ripping she is when we could be getting back to the business of locating Nazi U-boats? There was a war on, you know.

Construction-wise, Tom Stoppard's adaptation of Robert Harris's novel is nearly as ingenious a translation as you could come across at Bletchley Park. Chock-full of flashbacks and foreshadowings, the script fits in as many of the book's ideas as possible. The trouble is, a two-hour film is never going to fit in as much as a novel, so the more faithful you are to your source, the more cramped your movie becomes. Enigma is a film that wishes it were a six-part BBC costume drama.

If it had been a TV serial, it might have taught us the details of the codebreaker's job in discreet, integrated lessons. As it is, Stoppard has to resort to far too many scenes in which people explain things to each other, or, if there's no one else around, explain things to themselves. No doubt the producers, one of whom is a Mr Mick Jagger, were being extra-conscientious about the minutiae as a counterbalance to the American-biased Enigma variations ad-libbed by U-571 last year. For Jagger and Co, showing off their research may have been more of a priority than honing their narrative. I wish they'd just supplied cinemas with glossaries of codebreaking terminology and had done with it.

From codecracking to safecracking, and another film that's less than the sum of its headline-grabbing parts. The Score (15) is a slipshod, shallow heist-thriller-by-numbers – a plot-driven film with almost no plot. Three criminals plan a robbery, and then, well, they execute a robbery. On the odd occasion that there is a twist, it's so slight that it's hardly more than a bend.

What makes an undistinguished genre movie such a let-down is that it stars Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and a talking whale called Marlon Brando. The film's publicists have trumpeted The Score as an opportunity to see The Finest Screen Actors of their Generations United at Last although Sean Penn Wasn't Available – but don't go along expecting a method masterclass. If someone's principal occupation in a film is either a) to stare at a computer screen or b) to crawl along a ventilation shaft in a boiler suit and balaclava, it doesn't matter how well he can act.

Mike Bassett: England Manager (15) is a spoof documentary featuring Ricky Tomlinson. The opening minutes raise hopes of a footballing Spinal Tap; after that the laughs tail off, but there are enough left to earn it a following on video among They Think It's All Over fans. Mind you, its entire premise, that the England team and its manager are disastrously incompetent, isn't very timely. The film-makers must have been the only Englishmen to be dismayed by that 5-1 victory over Germany.

The Brothers (15) is a convoluted, sporadically funny relationship movie in which four Los Angeles men face up to love, marriage, and the end of their twenties. Its one claim to originality is that the men are middle class and black, not middle class and white.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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