Stars: Jude Law, Ed Harris, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins
Genre: Drama, History, Romance
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 131 minutes
Like Saving Private Ryan, Enemy at the Gates opens with a pivotal event of World War II--the German invasion of Stalingrad--re-created in 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 amid 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 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
On the train... coming here... we were in the same car.
I saw you. You were reading and you fell asleep. Oh, I didn't dare look at you, you were so beautiful. It was scary. Afterwards, I couldn't stop thinking about you. It made me smile. And then I thought of all the men who would get to hold you, who would make you laugh... how lucky they were. And now I'm the one lying next to you.
I've been such a fool, Vassili. Man will always be man. There is no new man. We worked so hard to create a society that was equal, where there'd be nothing to envy your neighbour. But there's always something to envy. A smile, a friendship, something you don't have and want to appropriate. In this world, even a Soviet one, there will always be rich and poor. Rich in gifts, poor in gifts. Rich in love, poor in love.
On this day, September 20th 1942, a young shepherd boy from the Urals arrived in the city of Stalingrad on the banks of the Volga. His name is Vassilij Zaitzev. Like thousands before him he came to answer comrade Stalin's call. Armed only with a rifle, he quickly made the fascist invader realise that from now on he would be punished for every step he took in the motherland, that from here on the only way was back.