Monday, April 8, 2013

Enemy at the Gates Review

Enemy at the Gates Review
Director:  Jean-Jacques Annaud  

Cast Headliners: Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz 

Original Release Date: March 16, 2001

Seen: January 2013
Many, many films have been made about World War 2. Considering it is the largest conflict in recent human history, that is understandable.  Quality ranges, but many remember films showing American heroes such as in Saving Private Ryan and The Dirty Dozen and Patton. However, there is a front which is less often explored. That is the bloody campaign of the Russians fighting against the Nazis to defend and re-take their homeland.  The setting of Enemy at the Gates is the 1942 Battle of Stalingrad.  Jude Law plays Vasily Zaitsev, a simple man who is charges into the front of battle with his comrades. The large scale action scenes such as the opening assault are epic and awe-inspiring in their size and explosiveness. The interesting thing is that the entire scene happened in real life while filming. 100’s of extras were used, and a prop town was demolished then re-built. Not much CGI is used in the film, which gives credit to director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s attention to detail. It really feels like 1942 Russia, from the setting to the clothing to the props. This entire story is true , which helps lend to the immersion.
In this scarred battleground Vasily makes the acquaintance of a commissar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) who becomes a good friend and fellow sniper Tania (Rachel Weisz) who becomes a lover.  The trio’s friendship gives the film a bit of heartwarming in the grim war setting, and the romance subplot is luckily not distracting. Also a mention is worth of Bob Hoskins as the grizzled and mean Nikita Khrushchev, who would later be a famous premier of the USSR but for now is a mere general as of the film.
That is because this movie has some of the best sniping ever. Vasily is a crackshot, and takes out officer after officer in the many great battle scenes.  A challenger from the Nazi side soon appears in the form of Major Erwin Konig, played by the chilling Ed Harris Harris is so evil in this movie, he seems demonic. . The rest of the film after Konig’s introduction becomes a sub war of “spy vs spy” between him and Vasily, sniping at each other in many heart pumping scenes.  Each snipe-off gets better and better up until the final fight.
I reviewed this movie because I feel like it is the Saving Private Ryan of the Russian Theater of World War 2.  It was moderately successful, but I think it deserves to be watched.  It is exciting, accurate, and frankly the best sniper centric war film I have ever seen.  There may be only minimal deep craft or whatever in Enemy at the Gates, but it wonderfully delivers on its mission of showing a Russian sniper sniping things in World War 2.  A well-earned 8.65 out of 10.

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