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The Bletchley Circle: Cracking a Killer's Code

4.6 out of 5 stars 693 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Four women who worked as codebreakers at Bletchley Park have taken up civilian lives. Susan, has collated data about a series of murders. She tries to convince the police she knows where another body is, but they are unable to locate it and dismiss her. She turns to her three friends and they work out where the next victim will be taken, find the body, then decide they are the only ones who can track down the killer.

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After her days cracking Nazi codes at Bletchley Park during World War II, Susan Gray (Anna Maxwell Martin) finds life as a housewife lacking. When she perceives patterns in a series of killings, she approaches the police, only to be rebuffed. Horrified by the prospect of more women being murdered, Susan gathers three of her Bletchley cohorts--outspoken, independent Millie (Rachael Stirling, Tipping the Velvet); Jean (Julie Graham), an administrator at Bletchley who still has connections in the British bureaucracy; and Lucy (Sophie Rundle), whose eidetic memory makes her a living computer. Their complementary skills allow them to deconstruct these grisly crimes, predicting where the killer may strike next and gradually unraveling where he came from… which brings them closer to the murderer than they ever expected. The Bletchley Circle: Cracking a Killer's Code cunningly mixes a gripping mystery with understated commentary on women's roles in society (or lack thereof). The social critique actually compounds the tension; the patronizing and dismissive attitude of the police and other men makes the serial killer's actions seem less like a derangement and more like the logical extreme of sexism. The writing, performances, and production are all top-notch; this is a smart, multilayered thriller. --Bret Fetzer

Product Details

  • Actors: .
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG-13
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: May 14, 2013
  • Run Time: 135 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (693 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00BCXW106
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,948 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. J Terry on December 13, 2012
Format: DVD
I was especially interested in The Bletchley Circle because my mother was a code breaker for the US counterpart. Unlike the British protagonists, who for security reasons are required to tell everyone (even their husbands) that they did only "clerical work" during the war, my mother was allowed to state her occupation, although without many details. She did convey to me the intellectual challenges, the excitement, the camaraderie, and the feeling of making a valuable contribution that pervaded the large room where the code breakers worked long hours, just as in this movie. Like the protagonist Susan, my mother was extremely good at anagrams, crosswords, and other puzzles, but complained that the vast majority of those published were not hard enough. She also loved to read murder mysteries.

However, my mother returned to her academic career, whereas Susan has dutifully become a housewife. By 1952, Susan loves her husband and her two small children, she does her best, but she's bored. She becomes obsessed with a serial killer whose murders of young women are regularly reported in the newspapers. She tries to determine the killer's schedule, his geographic patterns as he moves around the country, his modus operandi, and his motives. The police have arrested a different man every time, and she's sure those suspects were framed by the real killer. Susan cannot solve the mystery alone, so she recruits her three closest colleagues from Bletchley: Millie, Lucy, and Jean. Jean's strength is research (she's now a librarian), Lucy has an eidetic memory, and Millie is tough and slightly shady, meaning she buys and sells things, including handguns, on the black market.

In some ways this is a typical thriller.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
With a superb ensemble cast and exceptionally fine design, this is a series worth savouring. The problems for women emerging into grey, dreary, suburban 1950s England after performing life-and-death intelligence work during the war is all too believable. As the murders mount up and clues are pieced together like code-breaking by this group of brilliant but quirky women, the refusal of senior police to believe them or take them seriously becomes hair-raising. Recommended for those who like unusual, well acted suspense.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Centers around a group of women who shared wartime experiences decoding German military messages at Bletchley Park during WWII. Ten years later, back in the mainstream as 'ordinary' housewives and women, and having to deny their past due to the Official Secrets Act, a series of murders brings them back together.

They are fascinated by the patterns they are trained to spot in the killer's habits. They are, of course, poo-poo'd by their husbands and police, so they go it on their own -- with certain degrees of danger and difficulty.

A cracking good tale, with a top-notch cast that enjoys each other's company. The best sort of British TV, without any of the maudlin and saccharine side of Masterpiece Theater (not to mention their constant asking for money, even on a bought-and-paid-for DVD).
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Format: DVD
When the masterful 2005 version of Bleak House premiered on Masterpiece Theatre, we were all introduced to the talents of Anna Maxwell Martin. She starred as the orphaned, ill-treated Esther who finally found purpose at Bleak House before going on to star in a number of smaller roles. Now she has been restored as a leading lady - and she does it all rather marvelously in this "adult" three-part mini-series.

Ordinary is not a word one could ascribe to Susan (Martin). She loves puzzles and cannot seem to shut off her brain no matter how hard she tries - when there's a riddle, she must solve it. Some nine years after WWII, that is exactly what Susan is living: an ordinary life with two children and a husband whose career is on the brink of brilliant success. As a code-cracker during the war, Susan was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement and has kept her work a secret but now there have been a string of horrible murders and by powers of deduction, she's come up with information that could aid the police in their investigations. When the information turns out to produce no results, Susan reaches out to her former colleagues in Lucy (Sophie Rundle), Millie (Rachel Stirling) and Jean (Julie Graham), all of whom are living simpler lives now. Lucy is involved in an unhealthy relationship and Millie is hurt by Susan's dismissal of their friendship, having once promised her that she'd never allow Susan to be "ordinary"; the girls had grand adventures planned before Susan fell into marital life.

Skeptical to hear out Susan's plans, the girls eventually band together, knowing there is more to Susan's patterns than anyone is willing to notice. They use their training and any resources they can find to follow the serial killer's path.
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Format: Blu-ray
This is another case where it is sometimes better to watch a DVD release of a series airing on PBS than watching it on TV. The Bletchley Circle will begin airing on PBS this week as a three-part mystery. And even though you'll need to set aside an hour to watch it each week, the film (broken up into three episodes) is actually only 135 minutes (just over two hours). The episodes flow into one another with no real backtracking and I found that by watching three episodes back to back made for a richer viewing experience. The series was produced for commercial television in the UK, hence the short episodes.

I'm sure a lot of the reviews posted here will be based on those who watched the series on TV and, while I haven't seen the PBS version, my guess is there will be some small edits because of a few graphic images (both violence and sexual. The Blu-ray (and the DVD, I assume) are unedited and each episode runs about 45 minutes).
This film (series?) uses the standard "looking for the serial killer" baseline but is different because the crime (well multiple murders) are solved by four women who worked at Bletchley Park - an estate in Buckingham, England where smart women were recruited from Oxford and Cambridge in 1943 to break the "enemy"'s code. After a brief intro, we are placed in early 1950s post-war London where four of the women - each with their own personality and home life - reunite to find a killer. There are men in the cast but every male character they interact with is either abusive or ignorant of their inner feelings. (Though women viewers will be attracted by the strong female characters, men will like the series too.) Both the script and the film's direction are by men.
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