The Little Spy Thriller That Could Starring Martin Sheen

Enigma comes from the 1980s when movie audiences had fewer expectations from their spy flicks. A CIA agent tries to outsmart the KBG while possibly saving the woman he loves in this Cold War-era spy drama from forgotten director Jeannot Szwarc. The director with credits such as Supergirl and Jaws 2 churns out an enjoyable spy thriller set in East Berlin with stars Martin Sheen and Sam Neill in one of his earliest roles. Its taut espionage intrigue successfully blends suspense and romance in convincing humanity.

Released in 1982, Martin Sheen stars as Alex Holbeck. Recruited by the CIA for his knowledge and contacts in East Germany, Holbeck is sent on a dangerous mission behind the Iron Curtain. The CIA has learned the KGB plans to murder five Russian dissidents across the West on Christmas. They want Alex to steal the Russians’ code-scrambling device in East Berlin to stop this nefarious plan.

Holbeck relies heavily on a former lover once he crosses into Berlin, East German lawyer Karen Reinhardt (Brigitte Fossey). With romantic feelings still between them, Alex’s spy mission may be compromised before it begins. KGB agent Dimitri Vasilikov (Sam Neill) is aware Holbeck has arrived in East Germany and wants to stop him. Alex and Dimitri play a dangerous game of espionage with Karen in the middle.

Cold War-era spy fans will lap up Enigma with its crafty storytelling and suspenseful ride. This isn’t Jason Bourne stuff with heavy action and incredible stunt choreography, but a character-driven drama. A tense cat-and-mouse chase ensues between Holbeck and Dimitri as the KGB root out possible sympathizers in East Berlin.

…a sleepy little spy drama from the Cold War that works because of its fine leads and interesting relationships

Martin Sheen recedes somewhat in the background despite being the nominal protagonist. However, Sam Neill is excellent as the arrogant KGB agent hunting down Holbeck. Actress Brigitte Fossey plays the vulnerable Karen with a tenderness and vulnerability that makes Enigma. Her character gets put through the emotional ringer when she decides to play spy versus spy.

Enigma is demanding viewing and requires close attention if you want to keep up with its dense plotting. Supporting characters come and go around the three leads, making for some confusion. I’m almost sure a few viewers will be mystified at a couple of the plot twists. Pay attention or you might get lost along the way.

This is a sleepy little spy drama from the Cold War that works because of its fine leads and interesting relationships. The final act is fantastic as the tragic relationships become messier and messier. Enigma isn’t the best at spycraft in a classic sense but surely works as compelling human drama.


Enigma finally hits Blu-ray after all these years as part of MVD’s Marquee Collection from S’More Entertainment. The movie was barely serviced on DVD well, with only a respectable German DVD released by Kinowelt being anything to write home about across the globe. Shown here in its proper theatrical aspect ratio for the first time in the United States, the Blu-ray represents a dramatic picture quality improvement over any prior version on home video.

This is a serviceable film transfer from stable elements with decent clarity. Definition is on the softer side but mostly film-like for its film stock and era. The more I watched, my first impression of the transfer being an older telecine effort was likely incorrect. This is a newish 2K transfer with a hint of sharpening. It may have been struck from the negative albeit the film elements have gone unrestored. There’s no significant degradation to the film elements.

The 1.78:1 presentation has acceptable shadow delineation and adequate grain reproduction. Nothing has been done to spruce up the color palette. Timing has been left untouched. You’ll definitely know the film was made in the early 1980s or late 1970s by its limited saturation and modest definition.

Rare these days for a new Blu-ray release, the encode comes in MPEG-2. There’s no real effect on the video as compression issues aren’t a significant problem. A touch of macroblocking in one of the movie’s darkest scenes, but nothing else substantial. The uncut main feature clocks in at 101 minutes on a BD-25.


The original theatrical soundtrack in mono is included in 2.0 Dolby Digital. The dialogue-driven drama has adequate dynamics. The score is nicely balanced in the mix. There’s nothing out of the ordinary, but expect an audio presentation closer to older television movies than larger theatrical fare. There are no fidelity issues with Enigma’s audio.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.


MVD adds the trailer and a photo gallery of still images for the special features.

Photo Gallery (01:04 in HD) – Promotional posters and stills from the movie are included, 13 in all.

Theatrical Trailer (03:02 in SD)

Actor Biographies (00:59 in HD) – Brief capsule summaries of text are provided for Martin Sheen and Sam Neill.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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  • Extras


Martin Sheen and Sam Neill duel as counter spies in the Cold War in this entertaining spy drama.

User Review
4 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 20 Enigma screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 20,000+ already in our library), 75+ exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.

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