Film: Enemy at the Gates


Cast includes: Jude Law (Alfie), Joseph Finnes (Shakespeare in Love), Rachel Weisz (Runaway Jury), Bob Hoskins (Nixon), Ed Harris (Pollock)
Screenplay/direction: Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet)
Genre: Historic based WWII drama/romance (2001)

In brief: “Every second man gets a rifle. The one with the rifle shoots. The one without follows him. When the one with the rifle is killed, the one who follows picks up the rifle and shoots.” These are the instructions shouted to the men who pour off the boats, as they come to defend Stalingrad… a city that’s already in ruins. It’s September 1942, and Hitler’s army is charging across the Soviet Union toward Asia. The fate of the world is being decided at the city that bears the soviet leader's name. Yet the city is nothing but a pile of ruble, with crows picking over the bodies of Russian dead. When Vassili Zaitsev finally does get his hands on a rifle, he handily picks off a half dozen German officers. And a journalist, Commisar Danilov, is there to witness it and write about it.

Days later, Nikita Khrushchev arrives to demand a turnaround in the defense of Stalingrad. The Germans have artillery, aircraft and tanks. The Russians have nothing but “a sacred duty to resist!” Nothing until Danilov reminds Khrushchev that they have heroes… like Vassili Zaitsev, the shepherd boy from the Urals, who shot his first wolf at age 5. Soon the Danilov articles about Vassili’s sniper kills run on the front page of all the Russian newspapers. The hopeful nation follows his daily kills. Hitler also follows the news, and he’s determined to bring the demoralizing sniper killings to an end. He doesn’t send ordinary marksmen… he sends Major König, the director of a top German sniper school. When asked how König will find Vassili, Koenig replies, “I’ll fix it so he’s the one who finds me.” Now the fate of Stalingrad comes down to a battle of two expert snipers in a brutal fight to the death.

Enemy at the Gate starts out with a battle scene that rivals Saving Private Ryan in intensity. But unlike Private Ryan, the intensity continues through out the entire movie… it simply changes from a large battle to a private one between two men. While the Russian people think Vassili is invincible, Vassili knows he isn’t. And we know he isn’t, too. As long as Danilov continues to write the stories, Vassili will continue to be the target of Germany’s top marksman. And it’s not only Vassili who’s in danger. All those around him are in danger, too. This is an extraordinary WWII war movie, not because it celebrates heroic victories but because it keeps us on edge throughout the entire movie.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

Popped kernels for the excellent suspense, great story, great acting, fabulous production and historic interest. The music will haunt you. I need more popcorn!

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