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This for me is the best war film ever made. It may not have the action that some others have but the emotional buy in and reaction that it inspires is unbelievable.
Three big names in Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz head the cast however you will recognise many other faces in this (Bob Hoskins, Ed Harris etc).
I won't write too much here as I hate giving away things that people would enjoy finding for themselves.
This film is set in Stalingrad in World War 2 and focusses on the German assault on Russia. In particular it focusses on a young russian from a rural background who gets conscripted to fight. The film opens with a russian assault on a well fortified German position. As the russians are urged into action with a rifle between 2 people they are mercilessly gunned down by German machine guns. As the Russians try to retreat they are then shot by their own Officers for cowardice.
The film centres on the main character and also a young officer/reporter who form an unlikely allegiance. The young soldier proves to be a crack shot and the reporter inspires the nation with propaganda stories about his friend.
All well and good until the Germans bring in a big shot sniper of their own charged with the killing of the youngster.
Add to the mix a love triangle and some genuinely heart warming moments and the film is electric. It is edge of the seat stuff.
Tremendous production and direction as well as excellent sets and scenery make this extremely watchable and helps to ensure that you can relate to the characters involved.
A good set of extras (documentaries, biographies, commentaries and deleted scenes) make this excellent value at just under a fiver from Amazon. this is a film that I can happily watch over.
Review also on Ciao
Despite the film's grimness, if there was ever a film that could be accused of encouraging violence and war, it is 'Enemy at the Gates'. This was the accusation of German critics at the Berlinale film festival, who also said it simplified history but there can be no mistake, this film captures a great deal of the pain and brutality of war. Its just the idea of sniping seems so freaking cool!
The spectacular re-creation of Stalingrad provides the setting for the story of the legendary Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev, played by North London's own Jude Law. His rise in fame from a raw recruit from the Urals to ray of hope for the beleaguered Russian people sees the Germans respond by sending Major Erwin Konig, head of a sniping school in Germany to deal with him.
The director Jean-Jacques Annaud specified Ed Harris for the role of Zaitsev's chief adversary Konig because of his dramatic icey blue eyes, and cast Law from an audition based on the strength of his oculars. It is the focus, intensity and power that they bring to their respective roles that makes the film.
Annaud cast British actors in the main roles hoping for an Anglophone audience and believing that Americans would struggle to understand the sensitive history that provides the backdrop. Rachel Weisz sparkles as Tania Chernova, glowing with a graceful elegance throughout, even when we see her bum. Danilov is a fictional character, played to perfection by Joseph Fiennes. Bob Hoskins was an inspired choice for the rustic and foul mouthed future President Nikita Khrushchev.
Weisz is the point of a love triangle between Zaitsev and Danilov, but that theme is secondary, and whilst not boring is not really distinctive or of interest.
The cruelty of the Soviet regime is captured by the brave pitiable gunless Russian soldiers at the beginning and Zaitsev's metal toothed colleague, whose teeth were smashed through after being unjust accused of spying. It also provides a mirror to Nazi Germany; the scene where Konig arrives by train and pulls down his blind to avoid seeing the suffering of German soldiers was based on a tale of Hitler doing the same thing.
The historicity of the film is an issue. Major Konig may be an apocryphal character, constructed by Zaitsev or his Soviet promoters to sustain his fame. While most other characters are real, they probably never met in real life. That, however, should not stop you from enjoying what is a great film and may inspire you to take up paintballing.
One final outstanding feature is the wealth of extras on the DVD, something not often found accompanying films from this time period.
Enemy At The Gates came out in 2001 and stars Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes amongst others. It is a pretty good drama film set during World War II.
The movie is about the Eastern German front during the 2nd world war during the Battle for Stalingrad. Jude Law plays Vassili Zaitsev who is a young Russian soldier sent out to the front line. Unfortunately for him and others around him, the Russians are suffering thousands of casualties at the hands of the German army. They needed to be stopped at Stalingrad at all costs. Vassili has made his name over the years as pretty decent sniper. He has great shooting skills. So he was issued with a new sniper rifle to use and his mission was to shoot down as many enemy soliders as possible. Many hundreds of Germans began to fall at his hands and he was rapidly raised through the ranks to become a national icon. The German army realised they had to do something about this and sent out their best sniper in retaliation to take down Vassili. And so begins a deadly game of cat and mouse and sniper versus sniper.
For me, Enemy at the Gates is one of the best war movies I've seen for a while. There have been some great war movies made but I found this one pretty realistic as a whole, if not a bit depressing. But then there are not many war movies that aren't depressing. The story is extremely intriguing and interesting and although not everything is completely factual the action sequences are very good and the acting performances from Jude Law in particular are fantastic and show his versatility as an actor to the fore.
Enemy At The Gates is an excellent and critically acclaimed action movie about the rise of a phenomenal Russian sniper following Germany's defeat of Russia at Stalingrad, and the propaganda tool as which he serves, owing to the involvment of Kruschev.
Finally, in a bid to combat the highly effective rallying of troops and leaders that sniper Wasily Zaitsev has accomplished, the Germans employ their own veteran sniper to redress the balance.
The realtime action scenes are very impressive in this movie, as are the understated serious acting performances which strongly mirror the sense of Russian disenfranchisement one would expect of the time. The single-mindedness of each character, focusing on their own own tribulations rather than the grand scheme, is a very good device and makes for an interesting portrayal of Russian military service, and romance in times of such strife.
This is just as much an emotional journey as it is an action-oriented one, and is subsequently a far cry from the more conventional and expected War movies such as Stalingrad and Das Boot. The cast is superb, (Jude Law, Bob Hoskins, Joseph Fiennes) and even the minor characters in the movie deliver exceptionally well, although the first-person narrative does begin to fall a little bit short in the second half, and leaves the viewer to have to follow on alone.
The DVD includes a 'making of' short, called "Through The Crosshairs" which is a nice little tacked-on addition to the main feature, and actually quite entertaining. I recommend Enemy At The Gates to anyone who fancies a bit of a change from the conventional War movie.
In 1942 the German army had the Russian city of Stalingrad under siege. While the Russians try to rally a response the German's are advancing further into the city and destroying more and more of it as they come. The Russians have pockets of resistance all over the city and one of those, Vassili Zaitsev, is causing the German's a lot of problems. He is an expert sniper who is picking the German troops off and moving before they even realise where he shot from. Their response is to bring in the best sniper in the German army and what begins is a massive game of cat and mouse between the two snipers all over the City.
Films based around the wars are always quite an interesting genre and with the American film makers tending to like rewriting the history of the war then the British funded Enemy of the Gates sounded like a break from the norm. The setting in the Russian city gives it a slightly different spin on the typical war film with all of the action taking place in the city of Stalingrad. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this movie and it certainly stands up amongst the best war films in the genre.
With the backing of the British studios the direction comes from French director Jean-Jacques Annaud who also claims a writing credit for the movie. His direction is superb and he has all the scene's set up perfectly throughout the war ravaged City centre. He has somehow captured exactly what you would expect the city to have looked like with mud and dirt everywhere. He's made the film look visually superb with the right lighting and scene setting and that adds a real sense of realism to his direction and in turn to the fell of the film as a whole.
It also helps that the plot doesn't seem to have itself buried in the usual American flag waving war stories and in fact there isn't an American to be seen. It has a very fast pace to the plot and it holds your attention throughout, even making the sniper sequences seem a lot quicker than they perhaps were. Of course they keep the realism by showing that they don't find what they are looking for on every outing and Annaud and co-writer Godard create a lot of tension through the way they've written and filmed certain scene's that work particularly well. It's a film that looks visually amazing with some fantastic special effects and both writer and director produce a brilliant movie here.
With the lead role filled by Jude Law at a time whilst he was still making a name for himself it works particularly well. As he wasn't a huge star at the time it gave him a real opportunity to showcase his acting ability. He is perfect in the role of Zaitsev and really gets you onside with the cunning and vision of his character. As the movie progresses we learn more and more about him and I think that really helps you to get behind him in his personal battle with the German forces. You can also sense the competition between him and Ed Harris who plays the German sniper.
Like Law, Harris takes to the role perfectly and the writers have created a character that the audience will want to see Zaitsev kill. The supporting cast is by no means shabby either with Rachel Weisz, Joseph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins and Ron Perlman. Each of the actors seem to really be at the top of their game in this movie and Annaud seems to really produce flawless performances from the entire cast, which is something of a rarity in movies of this sort.
Overall this is probably one of the best war movies of recent years. It doesn't have all the American flag waving, rewritten history that the Hollywood movies seem to pile into its war movies. Instead this is a very unique and insightful look into the battle for Stalingrad. It's a film that really requires your attention and has you hooked from the first minute to the last and despite its 131 minute run time it feels like a much shorter movie. If you like war films then I can recommend that you'll love this.
Amazon Marketplace: £2.70
Released in 2001, Enemy at the Gates is a war film set during the battle of Stalingrad and starring Jude Law as russian peasant-turned-sniper Vassili Zaitsev and Ed Harris as Major Erwin Konig, an elite German sniper who gets the job of tracking down and taking out Vassili after the russian attracts the attention of his superiors on account of his hunting-honed sniping skills and is moulded into an important Soviet propaganda weapon.
The film's opening is brilliant, launching straight into a Russian offensive against the Nazi lines that echoes Saving Private Ryan in its stark and uncompromising brutality. Troops are handed one rifle between three and instructed to pick the weapons up when their wielder is killed; German Stukkas strafe overcrowded Soviet troop boats with machineguns whilst Sargeants pump revolver rounds into anyone that tries to escape by jumping over the side; conscripts are mown down from the front by concentrated german fire whilst NKVD machinegunners cut down from behind any troops who try to retreat.
The film then follows Vassili as his celebrity grows, with a love-triangle sub-plot in which he and a political commissar (an officer responsible for cultivating the ideology of the nation in order to ensure governmental political control) by the name of Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) both fall in love with the same woman, a local milita-fighter by the name of Tania, played by Rachel Weisz. The plot rapidly becomes somewhat convoluted, and gives way to a cat-and-mouse game between Vassilli and his stalker Major Konig as the two sharpshooters try to outwit one another, with Vassilli aided by a young russian boy who mediates between the two, his true alleigence appearing less than clear.
The pace starts to drag quite quickly after the well-executed and dramatic opening scenes, and never quite manages to regain it's momentum, and despite some superb visuals and solid performances (Bob Hoskins is excellent as the stoic and uncompromising Soviet general Khrushchev) the film fails to live up to its potential somehow. Ed Harris feels miscast as the German officer (he seems to be better suited to stereotypical US general roles, as in The Rock) and the film suffers from weak narrative in places, but remains an intelligent and worthy war film in spite of these oversights.
enemy at the gates this is one of my favourate films of all time i really do love it.
It about two world war two snipers one Russian and the other German in a game of cat and mouse both trying to out wit and kill the other during the battle of Starlingrad one of the bloodyest battles of world war two. The part of the Russian sniper i think is playedvery well by Jude Law who i think is a brilliant actor as shown in films like sleuth and AI. This film is based on a true story but it is not all correct it has been tweaked abit to make a better film it is based on Vassili Zaitsev who if you look up is considerd to one of the best snipers of world war two and has a very imressiv kill count. anyway i do reccomend this film to any one who loves a good war film or even just loves a good film.
"Enemy At The Gates" was nothing like I expected, but then again, I'm not sure what I expected. Another World War 2 movie, good guys and bad guys. Although totally different, this movie was equally as excellent as "Saving Private Ryan".
It shows the 'recruiting' of soldiers for the Russian Army, the lack of weapons and ammunition, the lack of training before these young men were expected to fight in battle. It shows the mentality of the Russian officers, who would shoot their own if they attempted to withdraw when they were being wiped out by superior manpower and ordinance.
Finally, it introduces us to a select group of fighters, snipers, and the man they idolize. Their hero. Vassili Zaitsev. A sure shot, who is feted by the media in order to fuel the patriotism that will provide live bodies to replace those killed in battle. And the German sharpshooter brought in to track and destroy this thorn in the Germans side.
In amongst the backdrop for the fight for Stalingrad, there is a touch of romance, and the horrors endured. There are ordinary heroes. Ordinary jealousies and people who do things for their own reasons. This movie is very powerful, and you marvel at the courage of these people who fought an extraordinary war with so little, and for a leader who offered them so little.
Of the cast, only Bob Hoskins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Ed Harris are recognizable names to me - the others seemed mainly French, German and Russian. However, I may not have heard of them before but this was so incredibly well acted that they are definitely on a par with the household names. This was no amateur production in any way. The soundtrack was impressive, as were the special effects. You almost felt that you were looking at the bombed out shell of Stalingrad during that time.
If you are not into Action or War movies, then you won't like this. If you are, this will leave you with a lot to think about.
Enemy at the gates was released in year 2001. This is a story of two snipers during the battle of Stalingrad in World War 2. The movie was directed by Jean Jacques Annaud. The writers of the movie are Jean Jacques Annaud himself and Alain Godard.
Jude Law played a role of Russian sniper, Vassili.
The part of Danilov is played by Joseph Fiennes.
Ed Harris played a role of Major Erwin Konig.
The role of Tania is played by Rachel Weisz.
Bob Hoskins played a role of Nikita.
During world war 2 German army attacks on Stalingrad. The red army arrives at city and most of them are shot down by German Army. Danilov and Vassili are still alive. Danilov hands a rifle to Vassili and he kills five German soldiers in five shots. In the meeting with Nikita Danilov suggests to publicize the news of brave soldiers, this will encourage people and gives them courage to fight for their motherland. Danilov transfer Vassili to the sniper divison. The fame of Vassili is increasing day by day because of Danilov articles.
Major Erwin came to Sralingrad to take down Vassili. Now here starts the battle between Russian and German sniper. Here Vassilii meets Tania. Danilov and Vassilii both fall in love with Tania. Daily Vassili went to kill German sniper and soldiers along with his snipers. But his fellow was killed by German sniper and anyhow he manages to escape
Danilov got a plan to kill German Sniper. A boy named Sacha is working for Germans. So he told to tell them the place where Vassili is hiding. Sacha do the same but Vassili missed the chance to kill Erwin. Who wins in the game of cat and mouse? Do Vassili able to kill Erwin? Who did Tania Choose as her lover? To know all the answers watch "Enemy at the Gates".
I saw this movie yesterday and honestly speaking I liked it very much, especially the war scenes and sniper shots. The opening scene of a movie is a war scene. Germans bombarding at the city and people are dying. It's very horrific and I like that scene. The game between two snipers is awesome. They are hiding, camping and killing each other fellows. Every shot is head shot. It creates a very exciting environment and you will love to see these shots. The visual effects and direction of movie is superb. The performances by lead actors is also good especially Jude Law. If you are war movie lover than what are you waiting for?
This film impresses; it's an achievement, riding though it is on the back of the war-epic upsurge/revival since Saving Private Ryan (1998). However this is perhaps a more important movie in some ways - not least the importance of Stalingrad as the major battle in the turning point of WW2 - a vexing fact for the western allies and any focus for heroic glamorisation through Hollywood. Not that this would be a problem in itself - Stalingrad is always ripe for re-visiting because of its utter lack of glamour or gung-ho, like the trenches of WW1. The event to any historian is a almost a straight example of dismal war reality and large-scale waste. There is a German film - the 1993 Stalingrad - of the ninth army's freezing defeat in the ruins but it suffers from unconvincing sets, terrible music and poorly drawn characters. However, eager western eyes for cinematic opportunities have - I suppose - looked continually to this area of the war, with the sheer scale and detail of the Stalingrad example of human suffering and desperation, the winter that smothered the organised German effort, the extensive ruins and the unchivalrous brutality of the two clashing forces of fascism and socialism, the latter's figurehead defending its very name on the city. Of course, the more extensively horrific the scenario, the higher the emotional voltage, and more grippingly contorted can be the looks on the faces of actors portraying hardy victims and fighters. So here we have a result, long and uneven but thankfully a satisfying one - suitably illustrative - that escapes Americanisation (well, essentially it must!) but is a bit of a medley of recent styles of war depiction. It is a thorough effort (although it is set fairly early so we don't get much snow) and supremely worthwhile (it incites a reaching for the history books - chiefly the more recent Stalingrad by Antony Beevor). The result is interesting because there is less all-out reconstruction and action, less arty-ness and more the reality of characters thrown into it and rapidly becoming people they are not. It is love and war again, with the events of thought, deed and honour in an extremity of conditions where humanity is on trial beneath the cloaks of nationalism and patriotism.
So although credit is clearly due not only to Spielberg and even The Deer Hunter (1978), it is William Craig's 1973 book Enemy at the Gates and Antony Beevor's recent bestselling, comprehensive book, that interested people will look back from and up at to this film, in the hope that appropriate justice can be done and sensitivity employed towards an historic scenario. The latter books particularly are detailed and hard-hitting accounts that swing a blunt and all-seeing perspective around the range of lives caught up in this desperate defence of national pride. The sheer cinematic possibilities in their telling must presumably have became too much for a film-makers twitch - the clash between two brutally determined regimes in a hell of filthy ruins and bitter cold - in this case Jean-Jacques-Annaud (of Seven Years in Tibet and The Name of the Rose) - a most appropriate choice as it turns out, for a cocktail of endurance, passion - close facial features- historical significance, forbidding scale and sudden snipers. Annaud depicts and mixes the elements with attention to detail and dramatic continuation - with a hasty mastery - without really losing the viewer's attention in the darkness of another bunker or another macho or predictable sniper stalk. The makers have clearly learnt from the recent war movie wagon, seeming to want to test the genre further by incorporating the modern cinematic shock-tactics and contrasting them more thoroughly with emotions caught up in them, to project some more vivid sense of disbelief or realization of them, as we reflect at the start of a new millennium. Although the result is thus uneven, it manages in my mind almost to reach this distance - by holding the attention through solid cement of the characters (and their friendship) and tiring us out with the stress of their survival and simplicity of their very human desires, intertwining to leave an ultimate sense of confusion and exasperation - akin to the situation of war itself. The scale and the nature of the war is adequately portrayed around this - the tenebrous position of the Russians - and by focus on a small crew of three-dimensional characters. Even the German aristocrat Konig is appropriately estranged and bitter from the loss of his son.
War is always a backdrop that can bring out such inter-relations more dramatically, or desperately, more heroically - allowing greater sympathy considering the duress or endurance undergone by all. As well as this, the film stays true to the spirit of history not so much in its accuracy but through its emphasis. The perspective of the central character as he is introduced to the world of Stalingrad is not so effective in the wake of Saving Private Ryan (winning on its own principle levels of heroism and horrific reconstruction) but it adds to it by prolonging the falling bodies and bloodshed to hit home to viewers the greater loss and far cruder and more expendable situation this battle was. The casual Russian slaughter of their own soldiers (due especially to the paranoia about failing loyalty) emphasises the prospects for the men under Stalin, the figure of Kruschev (Bob Hoskins) emphasises the dilemma and attitude of those in command, the job of the snipers emphasises the act of killing - an extreme actuality of war. This battle really was an illustration of backwardness in conflict, as opposed to, for example the sudden inadequacy experienced by the Americans in Vietnam. Enemy is only akin to Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986) in that there is an attempt to transcend the limitations of a documentary war movie and say something extra and worthwhile about such human tendencies. Platoon goes furthest by bringing out an experience that includes two opposing attitudes in men - represented by Elias and Barnes - and by depicting the dramatic death of one of them - in connection with the theatre of war and the forces that emerge there). However, the love story and test of friendship in Enemy mixes a simple need for goodness with war's supreme capability to spiritually twist and disorientate.
'All's fair in love and war' runs the quotation. Memorable scenes of this near-epic film include a passionate love scene, the unsettling 'showdown' between the two sharpshooters, and a despairing death of the more intellectual Danilov - a fatal disillusionment with the forces in mankind. He is also ashamed perhaps, for having tried to condemn his friend by the dictation of a damning report to one of his secretaries. For a moment in this film there really is no belief in heroes or humanity itself, only the truth of our struggling selves, as fundamentally 'poor men'. The death of Danilov is a tragedy, the death of Konig is certainly no victory, merely a pitiful waste that such a man should have bothered to become a callous killer on a personal vendetta. The main message can only be the distortion or corruptive nature of war's final extreme on the (honestly driven) but incorrect intentions of men. Vassili manages to maintain some purity or sense of reality towards such forces, although he himself must be a singular killer and becomes ultimately incensed to murder his pursuer.
There are some other pleasing attributes of this film; that for once we have British accents as they actually sound in Britain (albeit playing the Russians), that Ron Perlman was given a part as Koulikov (although not as memorable as his hunchback in the brilliant The Name of the Rose). The presence of a few good parallels - the initial attraction that might have blossomed differently on a train (had in not been bound for war) - that the act of killing explored at the outset (in the cold realm of the Urals) may have incited a lack of any hesitation in the final killing of Konig - thinly suggesting, one supposes, a lack of difference between man and animal when war induces an animal necessity (born from bitterness).
This film has its love story barely survive the ruins of such a bleak battle. However its hotchpotch success lies in the human inter-relationships that have more significance than any action sequences in the latter half of a merely intensely heroic Saving Private Ryan. The heroes of Enemy try to show us that mankind in general can swiftly become its own worst enemy, particularly where war or a greater sense of events has the result of scrambling its closer intentions.
I started watching this film with a mild scheptisism, but i have have to say i was very (and i mean extraordinarily) pleasantly surprised.
The film tells the story of a young red army sniper named vassili Zaitsev, fighting on the eastern front during World war 2. The films starts with him riding on a truck towards stalingrad. when he finally arrives at stalingrad where he is given only a clip of ammunition with no rifle, he is ordered to pick up his parteners rifle when he is killed. In my opinion this shows the suffering, and how poorly equip the russian army where during the second world war. However some Soviet Stalingrad veterans were so offended by inaccuracies in the movie and what they saw as the insulting way in which it portrays the Red Army. It has also been criticized for being very innacurate at times, but then again what war films arent. Despite this it is still an amazing film, with very a very clever storyline, brilliant actors and some very good military scenes.
i recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a good war film, and particularly to anyone who enjoyed the film Shooter.
Whilst masses of films have been churned out about the European campaigns of the Second World War, there have been few films set on the Russian front. We all know why this is. The Americans are soley responsible for winning the war and any part of the fighting that they were not involved in is not worth learning about. There has been a move recently to make more realistic historical movies and this , I think re-dresses the balance and reminds us that the "total" war of the Eastern Front was the site of some of the most horrific and desperate struggles.
The action takes place in Stalingrad, a city that became a personal battle between, Hitler and Stalin, a city in ruins and a city still heavily populated with Russian civilians. The main protaganists are a young hunter turned sniper, Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law) and a German marksman called Major Koning (Ed Harris). Due to the nature of the battlefield they are on, conventional war is difficult and has been replaced by a cat and mouse game played by solo Russian snipers, picking off important targets and trying to evade capture. As the body count rises, the morale of the Russian troops rise and the German spirits drop. Enter Major Koning, brought in with one goal, take out the Russian number one sniper.The film then revolves around the personal duel between the two, through the urban hell of burnt out factories and shattered houses.
The sub plot is provided by the love interest, Tania (Rachael Weis) a militia soldier who gradually falls for Vassili. This is complicated by
Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), Vassili`s fair-weather friend who also has designs on the girl. Danilov is the only character given real depth. His fate is entwined with Vassilis, and when the battle starts slipping away from them, his true colours are shown. Amongst the British dominated cast, even Bob Hoskins turns up as Nikita Krushchev, military leader of the Russian counter attack and future premier of the country. Eveyone seems to be reasonably well cast in their role, no-one stands out in particular, though Ed Harris does make a very stoic German.
The action is grim and gritty and unless you are a fan of the more realistic style of film making, it may not be your cup of tea. The ending is a bit obvious but there are, I guess, only two ways of ending the film, either the German wins the duel, or the Russian does, I wont tell you which ending they used.
There has been a lot of debate about the films historical accuracy, something which I do harp on about a bit. Whilst Braveheart, for example, was turned into a fairy story and the Patriot was set in a parallel dimension, the basic backdrop to this story is pretty good. Vassili Zaitsev did exist, not the Russians top sniper, but a very successful one, whether he fought such a duel with a German marksman is not known. What it offers is a possible story of a small part of a big campaign, if you made the film based on recorded fact, you wouldnt have much of a film. The filmmaker has to flesh out a story to keep the audience satisfied and I think that this has been done well, without altering the focus of the story. This then is a melting pot of all the small stories, the loves, lives and horrors of the normal people stuggling just to survive, it may not have happened this way, but there are valid truths in the individual aspects of the story.
If you just want a hard edged action movie, then this will fit the bill and may even stimulate you to find out more about this forgotten part of our recent past, the film "Stalingrad" is the obvious choice.
Great, I didnt even mention Saving Private Ryan once.....damn!
Enemy at the Gates is a film directed and produced by Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven years in Tibet) and was released in 2001. The film is loosely based around the real life exploits of Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law), a Russian sniper who fought in the battle for the ruined city of Stalingrad during the Second World War. The film starts in a snowy field with boy lying next to a bush holding a rifle. About fifty metres away a wolf is prowling in the snow stalking a horse that is tethered to a tree stump. The boy watches the wolf plodding through the snow and aims his rifle as these words are uttered in a barely perceptible whisper, ?I am a stone, I do not move. I put snow in my mouth so he won?t see my breath. I take my time, I let him come closer. I have only one bullet, I aim at his eye; very gently my finger presses on the trigger. I have no fear, I?m a big boy now? As the scene pans out we see that next to him is his Grandfather and it is him who is speaking the words, instructing the young boy. We learn that the young boys name is Vassili and as the wolf approaches his Grandfather screams at him to pull the trigger, the gun fires and we are given a black screen bearing the title of the film. I wouldn?t normally have bothered to describe a whole scene like that but it made such an impression on me when I watched this film that I felt it important to describe it. It really is one of the best opening sequences to a film (that didn?t involve dismembered body parts) that I have seen. It immediately transports you into the fictional world and the way it is filmed really grabs your attention. We then take a time jump and Vassili is young man on a train bound for Stalingrad, it is 1942 and the Germans control most of the city. The Russians are furiously throwing rank after rank of soldiers into Stalingrad, desperately trying to wrest control from the Germans. The train is bringing in yet more Russian men, most of whom have never even fir
ed a gun let alone fought in a war. Vassili is thrown into the battle head first with all the other new recruits and through a chance meeting with Danilov, (Joseph Fiennes) a political officer he ends up in the sniper division. As more and more of the Russian army are killed in Stalingrad Vassili quietly stalks his enemies one at a time. As his fame grows, with a little help from Danilov and his media connections, he attracts the attention of a top German sniper, Major Konig (Ed Harris) who is sent into Stalingrad to kill him. The main focus of the film is on the private duel between Vassili and Major Konig, and we follow them around the city as they stalk each other patiently. The action builds slowly throughout the film and reaches breaking point at the end when Vassili and the Major face off for the final time. There are also a couple of other stories, which intertwine with the main plot; one follows the fortunes of Sacha (Gabriel Thompson) a young Russian boy who mends the German soldier?s boots in exchange for chocolate. The other I won?t go into, as it would spoil some major parts of the story. While this film is rated as a 15 (as there is a mild sex scene), there isn?t a lot of blood and gore on show. The action is handled realistically but we aren?t treated to flying limbs and gaping wounds as we are in some other war films. The performances in the film are in my opinion, a little mixed. Jude Law puts in an ok performance as the unassuming and self-contained Vassili but at times (when he?s angry) he loses control and his East End accent comes blurting out which detracts from the reality of the situation. Listen out for this at the end of the film when he promises to get the Major?s gun as it is really obvious. The best performance of the film however, comes from Bob Hoskins (no really), who plays the angry and uncompromising Kruschev, the Russian General sent in to take back control of Stalingrad. Rachel Weisz (The Mummy, A
bou t a Boy) puts in an adequate but hardly stunning performance as the love interest but I?m not a fan of hers so maybe that?s just me. Joseph Fiennes is good as the ambitious Political Officer Danilov and Ed Harris is superb as the determined and mysterious German sniper, Major Konig. If you are a fan of war films and haven?t seen this yet then I would definitely recommend that you give it a go. While some of the acting is at best average the film has a superb story behind it which really helps to keep you engaged. The cinematography is excellent and there are some particularly good battle scenes as the recruits take the perilous journey across the river Volga. The ruined city of Stalingrad is depicted brilliantly and while all the action takes place in the city you are always served up a different view which helps to keep the film fresh. This film comes as a single DVD, which contains the main feature and a good selection of extras. The DVD has a commentary from the director as well as some deleted scenes and also the theatrical trailer. It also has 3 documentaries that explore the making of the film and some additional information concerning the real story behind the film. DVD information Running Time: 125 minutes Aspect Ration: 2.35:1 Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: Yes This DVD can be purchased from www.dvd.co.uk for just £7.99.
Never let it be said that Hollywood doesn't love a war. This particular easy money-spinner transports us back to Stalingrad during WWII...a period of history you'd have kinda thought Hollywood's head honchos just may have tired of milking by now but never cease to drag up again with increasingly underwhelming results IMHO. Anyhoo, this movie has absolutely no intention of looking at the broader perspective of the war but instead focuses upon a small band of (real and fictional) individuals and their personal involvement in the conflict. In some ways it works, in others...well erm, it bored my arse off to be perfectly honest but I've seen mostly positive reviews from other 'real' consumers so erm, each to their own I guess. ;o) The movie opens well, with scenes which are reminscent to the opening of Saving Private Ryan which I now suppose will be an obligatory inclusion in all movies of this type until something else comes along to emulate. New recruits are bundled into crude boats and sent across the river into Stalingrad whilst heavy shelling decimates the city and aircraft swoop down picking off the newbies with the greatest of ease. Those who try to jump ship and swim to safety are shot by their own officers as deserters, those who make it into the city have a one in two chance of actually getting handed a gun or of being sent into the conflict weaponless and being told to follow someone else around until they get shot and they can pick up their weapon! It's a tough and bloody opening and it is an undeniably impressive start whatever my opinion on the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, in my opinion it goes downhill fast from then onwards. Perhaps from when the 'storyline' kicks in lol. The centre of this story is the real life figure of Vassili Zaitsev(Jude Law), a whizz with a rifle who is recognised by political officer Danilov(Joseph Fiennes) as being a huge asset to the army and enlisted as a sniper. Rathe
r than forcing their troops into the affray and keeping them in order with the threat of a bullet if they should offer up and kind of dissention Denilov proposes to Nikita Khrushchev(Bob Hoskins) that they should instead give the men something to aspire to, something to motivate them and turns Zaitsev into a folk hero by reporting daily upon the number of officers etc. he has picked off through the daily propaganda leaflet drops. Soon the ruined city is awash with snipers and the German army finds themselves locked down by fear, replacing officers several times a day because as soon as one appears in view he ends up with a sniper's bullet in his head. They bring in their own sniper hero Major Konig(Ed Harris) to pick off Zaitsev for a little of their own propaganda and it is the battle of wills between these two which the movie then focuses upon... ...well kind of focuses upon. You see, mainstream cinema being what it is, we also have to throw in a stupid love triangle which is handled with all the aplomb of a soap opera subplot. Denilov wants Tania(Rachel Weisz), one of the Russian's many female recruits but she wants Zaitsev and he wants her so Denilov decides to collapse Zaitsev's reputation in revenge and ugh, sorry, 'tis awful nonsense which apparently has nothing to do with the real historical facts, certainly isn't worthy of any screen time and even more certainly not worthy of me writing too much about. Suffice to say, it succeeds in being very naff and takes up far too much screen time. So, is Enemy At The Gates worth your viewing time? Umm, the battle scenes are excellent, the special effects are good and the opening 20-30 minutes bring the brutality of Communist Russia during wartime into really sharp focus but aside from that it's all rather mediocre. The casting I had something of a hard time with for starters. It was difficult to take it all that seriously when all the actors speak in rather plumby English ac
cents(arguably better than crap Russian accents but still off-putting for me) and then you've got Bob Hoskins as Nikita Khrushchev which I'm afraid made me giggle a little. Rachel Weisz is a constant thorn in the side of any serious movie seeing as she simply can not act and again proves it coming across as virtually the same character you saw in The Mummy but in a Russian army uniform. Hoskins just growls and shouts a lot(although does bear some resemblance to Khrushchev) whilst Jude Law does a reasonably good job of looking lost as you'd expect from a sheep farmer turned hero of the Russian army. Ed Harris on the other hand is absolutely magnificent as Major Konig but his the only really good performance of the lot of them. I found the poor casting was one contributing factor to me finding it very difficult to get into this movie, not aided by the very impersonal directorial style adopted here which refuses to let you get close to the characters, certainly not close enough to care about them. The real people in the conflict are kept at arms length and it is obvious the love triangle element was thrown in to give American audiences something to latch onto in view of this(reminded me rather unfortunately of the similar tripe in Pearl Harbor) but it's all too clumsy to work. Furthermore, the very nature of it's main theme scuttles any attempt to generate the kind of tension you'd expect from a movie about a cat and mouse game played out between two top snipers, as you know neither is actually going to shoot the other until sometime near the end, if at all, or the movie will be over! Safe in that knowledge Enemy At The Gates becomes little more than watching two men stumbling around amongst the rubble with a silly love triangle thrown it to add something else to it all. Not my idea of fun and I was bored by the 60 minute mark with another 65 to go... Sadly, this could have been a far more interesting movie if it had had the
intelligence to explore some of its more interesting themes. We are given a taste of the importance and the power of propaganda during war time and a sniff at history(albeit inaccurate as you'd expect but who cares) but this is glossed over in favour of a cat and mouse game with 60 minutes of enforced and obvious padding and some silly interpersonal canoodlings. "The action is powerful, the drama intense" according to the back of my DVD casing...erm, I expect, and not for the first time, that Jonathan Ross, from whose pen the quote comes, watched an entirely different movie to me, or perhaps was commenting only on the first 20 minutes in which case I would entirely agree... Shame the rest is a bit pants though IMHO. ? DVD Features As much as I wasn't impressed by the film itself, the actual extras are pretty impressive, especially when you consider the movie wasn't exactly doing over-time at the box office! It's fair to say that Fox have really excelled themselves here...apart from one big gripe, but we'll get to that later. No, let's have it now: This DVD does not work fully on all players! I think that's quite important to point out. I have a Pioneer DV-454 (One of Amazon's top sellers at he time of purchase and on which has no problems playing any of my other DVDs) and neither of the behind the scenes featurettes work correctly as for some reason the background music is brought loudly into the foreground whilst the dialogue etc. is left as an inaudible background mumble. Bah! Apparently this isn't localised to this particular model because searching around the net I see that some Bush players have the same difficulties and there's probably more I'm yet to read about. Not a great start but anyway... The picture quality of the DVD transfer is pretty darn good to my untrained eye. Presented in its original cinematic 2.35:1 ratio you'l
l find the transfer free from grain or other damage as you'd expect from a new movie and despite the purposeful washed out appearance of the images they are crisp and sharp throughout with perfect flesh tones and colour depth. No bleeding or edge sharpening here, it's a really excellent transfer. Picture quality is very good indeed whilst the sound quality appears to be good too. I say 'appears to be' because I'm without a particularly decent sound set-up here but there's nothing to provoke comment upon. You have the option of Dolby 5.1 or DTS or described action(someone describes the scene content as it happens) or plain English subtitles. The menu which you'll use to navigate around the extras is equally impressive. You get a computer generated depiction of the ruined Stalingrad seen from the first person perspective as if you yourself were the sniper. A cross hair floats around the screen targetting your options whilst a montage of war images from the movie rage overhead. It looks great but it does mean that accessing the various sections is delayed whilst it plays through some of the effects. Submenus are accessed with a brief computer generated movie played as if you are moving through the rubble to aim elsewhere and...oh if menu's can be great then this is a great one! The initial look, sound and feel of the DVD is then very good, very polished and can't be faulted. Shame about the ferk up with the extras but there you go... ? Extras ? Director's Commentary An interesting directory from Annaud alone, no additional cast and crew for conversational commentary as you usually get, where he explains some of the history and some of the reasoning/interesting points behind his movie. All delivered in a very dry, matter of fact style but he never takes pause for breath throughout the entire movie so there's plenty of information to soak up should you be interested. Annaud is apparently som
ething of a history buff so there's a lot of history which gets poured out here which I found more interesting than his actual movie to be honest! I do like a little more joking around in my commentaries which makes them feel more like a friendly conversation over coffee as opposed to feeling like a lecture as this one occasionally does but it's a good, detailed commentary nonetheless. ? Documentary Parlez vous francais? Pathe news footage in French documenting the German assault on Stalingrad, showing battle plans, strategies and the assault itself with plenty of footage from the time. Umm, it also shows Khruschchev and what a striking resemblance Bob Hoskins has to him in this movie! It's an interesting history lesson again. ? Deleted Scenes It's always good to see DVDs including deleted scenes on their discs...even though their detractors always snottily comment on how "if they were any good they wouldn't have been deleted". No kidding? Anyhoo, there are nine of these here although it is never explained preceisely why it was decided they should be dropped from the movie. When you see a few of them though it is pretty obvious - they are undeniably awful in this case lol. Oh well, they are here and you can insert them into the movie if you sit there and hit the button when the star symbol appears. Personally, I saw the movie once and wasn't really interested in seeing it for the second time(well, third if you include watching the director's commentary) but others seem to love it so this option is here for them. ? Inside Enemy At The Gates / Through The Crosshairs The two behind the scenes featurettes I couldn't play. Both run for around 20 minutes and give you background info. to the movie. Erm, looking at the actual video(without sound) they both look like extended promo trailers but I'm sure there are a few pearls to be found in here if you can actually hear anyth
ing but the music! ? Trailer Just that. I never will see the point of watching a promotional trailer to a movie you have already bought and watched but there you go...it's here for those who want it(if the anorak fits, wear it my dear :oP). ? Filmographies Move the menu crosshairs over the star and shoot to be given a flipbook of their past work and dates of release. Nothing more, nothing less than written filmographies for the stars. ? Film Posters As with the filmographies this is exactly what it says it is. A flipbook of posters for the movie from around the world. Interesting for a skim through but nothing more. ? Storyboards Another for a quick skim through. You get artists' scribbles on the left and the actual conceived and filmed scene shown on the right. There are only 14 scribble/scene match-ups but it's worth skimming through. Erm, apologies for skipping through the last 4 extras but there really isn't much to say about them. They are included for anoraky completeness which is good because I'm sure someone will be extremely interested in them but there really is nothing there which most people will be in the slightest bit interesting in dwelling upon. Me included. ? Overall Well, that pretty much sums up the disc. There are the usual scenes selection options, subtitles and suchlike but nothing else to get excited over. It is all extremely well presented and there are lots of extras here which is impressive as, like I said, it didn't exactly whoop up a storm at the movie theatres. Personally, the movie itself just didn't do it for me and considering the disc is known to have problems on some players, mine included, I can't possibly give it anything above a 3 star rating, despite the great presentation and above average extras. If you like the movie then consider the disc but be aware of the potential problem with the extra
War! Huh! What is it good for?...erm, aside from making Hollywood money and deflecting attention away from problems with your economy anyway? But this is 1942 and the setting is Stalingrad in the middle of the conflict which will turn out to be one of the major factors in Hitler's downfall. As Napolean saw that Stalingrad was the key to cracking Russia, so too did Hitler and as the French failed to take Russia, so too again, did Hitler. The conflict over control of Stalingrad turned into a personal battle between Stalin and Hitler and the pig-headed refusal to back down and the heavy losses they suffered because of it was undoubtedly a major factor in the failure of the Nazis on the Western front. This movie however has no intention of looking at the broad perspective of the war but instead focuses upon a small band of (real) individuals and tells the story through their involvement in the conflict. In some ways it works, in many more it doesn't. The movie opens well, with scenes which are reminscent to the opening of Saving Private Ryan. New recruits are bundled into crude boats and sent across the river into Stalingrad whilst heavy shelling decimates the city and aircraft swoop down picking them off with the greatest of ease. Those who try to jump ship and swim to safety are shot by their own officers as deserters, those who make it have a one in two chance of actually getting a gun or being sent into the conflict weaponless and being told to follow someone else around and use their gun when they inevitably take a bullet themselves. It's a tough and bloody opening and it's a damn impressive start. Unfortunately, it goes downhill fast. The centre of the story is the real life figure of Vassili Zaitsev(Jude Law), a whizz with a rifle who is recognised by political officer Danilov(Joseph Fiennes) as being a huge asset to the army and enlisted as a sniper. Rather than forcing their troops into the affray and keeping them in order wit
h the threat of a bullet if they should offer up and kind of dissention Denilov proposes to Nikita Khruschev(Bob Hoskins) that they should instead give the men something to aspire to, something to motivate them and turns Zaitsev into a folk hero by reporting daily upon the number of officers etc. he has picked off through the daily propaganda leaflet drops. Soon the ruined city is awash with snipers and the German army finds themselves locked down by fear, replacing officers several times a day because as soon as one appears in view he ends up with a sniper's bullet in his head. They bring in their own sniper hero Major Konig(Ed Harris) to pick off Zaitsev for a little of their own propaganda and it is the battle of wills between these two which the movie then focuses upon... ...well kind of focuses upon. You see, mainstream cinema being what it is, we also have to throw in a stupid love triangle which is handled with all the aplomb of a soap opera subplot. Denilov wants Tania(Rachel Weisz), one of the Russian's many female recruits but she wants Zaitsev and he wants her so Denilov decides to collapse Zaitsev's reputation in revenge and ugh, sorry, 'tis awful nonsense which apparently has nothing to do with the real historical facts, isn't worthy of any screen time and certainly not worthy of me writing about. Suffice to say, it succeeds in being very crap and takes up far too much screen time. So, is Enemy At The Gates worth your viewing time? Umm, the battle scenes are excellent, the special effects are good and the opening 20-30 minutes bring the brutality of Communist Russia during wartime into really sharp focus but aside from that it's all rather mediocre. The casting I had something of a hard time with for starters. It was difficult to take it all that seriously when all the actors speak in rather plumby English accents(no attempt to sound even a little Russian then?) and then you've got Bob Hoskins as Nikita Khru
schev! Rachel Weisz simply can't act and again proves it coming across as the same character you saw in The Mummy but in a Russian army uniform, Hoskins just growls and shouts a lot(although does bear some resemblance to Kruschev) whilst Jude Law does a reasonably good job of looking lost as you'd expect from a sheep farmer turned hero of the Russian army. Ed Harris on the other hand is absolutely magnificent as Major Konig but his the only really good performance of the lot of them. I found the poor casting was one contributing factor to me finding it very difficult to get into this movie, not aided by the very impersonal directorial style adopted here which refuses to let you get close to the characters, certainly not close enough to care about them. The real people in the conflict are kept at arms length and it is obvious the love triangle element was thrown in to give audiences something to latch onto in view of this(reminded me rather unfortunately of the similar tripe in Pearl Harbor) but it's all too clumsy to work. Furthermore, the very nature of it's main theme scuttles any attempt to generate the kind of tension you'd expect from a movie about a cat and mouse game played out between two top snipers, as you know neither is actually going to shoot the other until sometime near the end, if at all, or the movie will be over! Safe in that knowledge Enemy At The Gates becomes little more than watching two men stumbling around amongst the rubble with a silly love triangle thrown it to add something else to it all. Not my idea of fun and I was bored by the 60 minute mark with another 65 to go... This could have been a more interesting movie if it had had the intelligence to explore some of its more interesting themes. We are given a taste of the importance and the power of propaganda during war time and a sniff at history(albeit inaccurate as you'd expect - but who cares) but this is glossed over in favour of a cat and mo
use game with 60 minutes of enforced and obvious padding and some silly interpersonal canoodlings which simply do not have a place in a war film, at least, not when handled quite this badly. "The action is powerful, the drama intense" according to the back of my DVD casing...erm, I expect, and not for the first time, that Jonathan Ross, from whose pen the quote comes, watched an entirely different movie to me, or perhaps was commenting only on the first 20 minutes in which case I would entirely agree. Shame the rest is a bit pants. Nice visuals, weak movie and the DVD, should you be interested, doesn't play the extras on all players. Geesh!
Enemy at the Gates opens with a pivotal event of World War II--the German invasion of Stalingrad--recreated in Saving Private Ryan-like epic scale as ill-trained Russian soldiers face German attack or punitive execution if they flee from the enemy's advance. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud captures this madness with urgent authenticity, creating a massive context for a more intimate battle waged amidst the city's ruins. Embellished from its basis in fact, the story shifts to an intense cat-and-mouse game between a Russian shepherd raised to iconic fame, and a German marksman whose skill is unmatched in its lethal precision. Vassily Zaitzev (Jude Law) has been sniping Nazis one bullet at a time, while the German Major Konig (Ed Harris) has been assigned to kill Vassily and spare Hitler from further embarrassment. There's love in this war, too, 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' 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 man-made hell on Earth. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com On the DVD: with a choice of Dolby 5.1 or DTS the sound is suitably spectacular (James Horner's Prokofiev-inspired score comes up well amid whizzing bullets and explosions), while the 2.35:1 anamorphic picture makes the best of the epic battle sequences. "Through the Crosshairs" is a standard 20-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, which is complemented by "Inside Enemy at the Gates", a 15-minute montage of interviews with the stars and director. There's also a 25-minute French-made documentary (with English subtitles) about the real battle that includes a short interview with the real Vassily Zaitsev. Eight brief deleted scenes can be played separately or neatly inserted into the movie by pressing Enter when the gun sight icon appears on screen. The commentary by director Jean-Jacques Annaud is as informative as might be expected from a director who always seems passionate about his film projects. Storyboards, posters, a trailer and filmographies round out an excellent disc package. --Mark Walker