Picks and Pans Review: Enigma

updated 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

That this film arrives so close on the heels of the TV miniseries of John LeCarré's Smiley's People invites invidious comparisons, to wit: This spy saga seems relatively as weighty and substantial as a Nancy Drew mystery. Martin Sheen stars as an American working for a radio propaganda operation in Paris. Because he had once lived in East Germany, he is recruited by American intelligence to return there and steal a Soviet encoding device. His success naturally sets off a flurry of concern in East German intelligence circles, driving Derek (I, Claudius) Jacobi, in particular, to heights of hateful villainy. Jacobi is second-guessed by the KGB, led by New Zealand actor Sam (My Brilliant Career) Neill, who seems strangely likable. Meanwhile Sheen teams up with a former lover, played by Brigitte Fossey. She worms her way into the KGB chief's heart and bed en route to his trade secrets. Sheen is efficient in an undemanding role, Fossey seems sincere enough, and director Jeannot (Jaws II) Szwarc gives the film a swift pace and glossy coating. But there are too many implausible elements in the script by John (Gandhi) Briley. What self-respecting KGB officer, for instance, would not know he was being seduced by the ex-girlfriend of a suspicious American? The showy plot twists and superficial complexity do lead to an enigma, but it is not a very intriguing one: What was all the fuss about? (PG)

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