Enemy at the Gates
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There's love in war as Vassily connects with a woman soldier (Rachel Weisz), but she is also loved by Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), the Soviet officer who promotes his friend Vassily as Russia's much-needed hero. This romantic rivalry lends marginal interest to the central plot, but it's not enough to make this a classic war film. Instead it's a taut, well-made suspense thriller isolated within an epic battle, and although Annaud and cowriter Alain Godard (drawing from William Craig's book and David L. Robbins's novel The War of the Rats) fail to connect the parallel plots with any lasting impact, the production is never less than impressive. Highly conventional but handled with intelligence and superior craftsmanship, this is warfare as strategic entertainment, without compromising warfare as a manmade hell on Earth. --Jeff Shannon
- - Making Of
- - Deleted Footage
- - Interviews
Top Customer Reviews
The core of the plot is the personal duel between two expert snipers, the Red Army's Vasily Zaitsev (Jude Law) and the German Wehrmacht major, Koenig (Ed Harris), the latter brought into the Stalingrad cauldron to kill the former before he totally destroys the morale of the German troops trying to capture the city. It's a cat and mouse confrontation depicted with startling realism, though, in this case, the mouse is just as deadly as the cat. The rest of the film is just window dressing, especially the sappy love triangle between Zaitsev, political commissar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), and a female Red Army sniper, Tania, played by Rachel Weisz.
The film, set among the rubble and destroyed factories of Stalin's city, is visually stunning. The performances of Law, Harris and Fiennes are excellent, as is that by Bob Hoskins, who plays Joe Stalin's political representative on the scene, Nikita Krushchev. My complaints center on the accents of the main characters, which don't sound Russian by any stretch of the imagination, the previously-mentioned and totally superfluous love story, and the fact that the Krushchev is given way too much screen time at the expense of the Russian general, Chuikov, who doesn't even appear, even though he was the Red Army's military commander whose gritty defense of the city ultimately prevailed.
This story of the duel between Zaitsev and his German nemesis is based in fact, though a better telling of the tale is the work of book fiction, WAR OF THE RATS, by David Robbins. If you're interested in this footnote to the Stalingrad struggle, the book is a "must", and the film will serve as excellent visual reinforcement.
Still, the movie tends to drag at times, and could have been much better. The love triangle subplot was more of a distraction than anything else, taking up time that could have been better used to tell more of the awesome story of the battle of Stalingrad as a whole. Rather than simply having the German commander state, "These snipers are demoralizing my people," it would have been nice to have actually "seen" a little bit more of how the actions of Zaitsev and the Soviet snipers wore down the vaunted German infantry. Regrettably, the duel between Zaitsev and Koenig seemed to be taking place in a separate reality than the war itself, almost giving the impression that both sides had an unwritten agreement to let the two rivals shoot it out without interference. Also, the abrupt ending gave no explanation as to how the Red Army, seemingly on the ropes throughout the movie, suddenly emerged victorious.Read more ›
The opening scenes, especially on the young Red Army soldiers cross the Volga river into the battlefield, were both realistic and visually stunning; which painted a gruesome and grandiose picture of all the books I have read regarding the battle of Stalingrad. Another strength about the movie is that it showed the tremendous sacrifice and suffering of Russian soldiers who fought on despite tremendous casualty from German fire and NKVD (Soviet State Security forces) executions.
I think this film has brilliantly captured the fact that however much the Soviet press in WWII played up the propaganda about personal heroism during the war, the authorities had a total lack of respect for individual lives. According to Antony Beevor's book on Stalingrad, Chuikov, the commander of the Red Army in Stalingrad that disappointingly did not show up in this film, was quoted as saying "Every man must become one of the stones defending Stalingrad." Perhaps the real horror of the battle of Stalingrad was that Russian soldiers were used as discardable weapons in order to defeat the enemy, which utimately saved the world from Nazi domination.
The cinematography of the duel between two snipers (Ed Harris and Jude Law) was very good, but I believe too much time was spent on this theme. I did not care for the love story that kind of got stuffed into the movie perhaps to soften up the hard edges of battle. As a war movie, "Eenmy at the Gates" have some obvious weak spots. However, overall I am just very happy to see a well-produced movie on one of the most decisive battles of the Eastern Front, and hope that more films will be made regarding this subject in the future.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good performances, well written script communicating the brutality of war. Working on classics statusPublished 2 days ago by Arnold Garcia Jr.
Well done motion picture of a significant event in WW2 history. Quite accurate technically with vintage firearms correctly shown in use.Published 8 days ago by Michael James
This is a great film. It is a good visual window into a vary troubled time in our past.Published 13 days ago by Norman Hodges
I first watched this movie about a decade ago and it provides the audience with a breathtaking glimpse into how the Red Army and the people of the USSR fought valiantly to defend... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Vahe Demirjian
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