Enemy at the Gates

Enemy at the Gates

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

Director(s): Jean-Jacques Annaud
Production: Paramount Pictures
  4 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
R (Restricted)

Red Army General :
I carried out my orders. I sent in all of my boys. But the Germans engulfed us. They have, artillery, aircraft, tanks. And me! What did I have?!

A sacred duty to resist! I have to report to the Boss. [puts a pistol on the table] Perhaps you'd prefer to avoid the red tape.

[Khrushchev walks out of the room to address political officers. There is a gunshot, then he begins.]

My name... is Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev. I've come to takes things in hand here. This city, is not Kursk, nor is it Kiev, nor Minsk. This city, is Stalingrad. Stalin-grad! The city bears the name of the Boss. It's more than a city, it's a symbol. If the Germans, capture this city, the entire country will collapse. Now, I want our boys to raise their heads. I want them to act like they have BALLS! I want them to stop SHITTING THEIR PANTS! [briefly pauses] That's your job. As political officers, I'm counting on you. You, what's your suggestion?

Officer #1:
Shoot all the other generals who have retreated. And their chiefs of staff, too.

[Khruschev looks at another.]

Officer #2:
M-make s-some examples. D-d-d-d-d-de-port the families of the d-d-deserters.

[bored] Yes, yes, that's all been done.

Give them hope!

[Kruschev walks over and looks at the officer standing in the front, who motions with his eyes toward Danilov.]

Here the men's only choice is between German bullets and ours. But there's another way, the way of courage, the way of love of the Motherland. We must publish the army newspaper again. We must tell magnificent stories, stories that extol sacrifice, bravery. We must give them hope, pride, a desire to fight. We must make them believe in the victory. Yes, we need to make examples; but examples to follow. What we need... are heroes.

[looks around, wryly] Do you know any heroes around here?

Yes, comrade. I know one.

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