A Navy navigator is shot down over enemy territory and is ruthlessly pursued by a secret police enforcer and the opposing troops. Meanwhile his commanding officer goes against orders in an attempt to rescue him.
Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe escape into the Belarussian forests, where they join Russian resistance fighters and endeavor to build a village in order to protect themselves and about 1,000 Jewish non-combatants.
In World War II, the fall of Stalingrad will mean the collapse of the whole country. The Germans and Russians are fighting over every block, leaving only ruins behind. The Russian sniper Vassili Zaitsev stalks the Germans, taking them out one by one, thus hurting the morale of the German troops. The political officer Danilov leads him on, publishing his efforts to give his countrymen some hope. But Vassili eventually start to feel that he can not live up to the expectations on him. He and Danilov fall in love with the same girl, Tanya, a female soldier. From Germany comes the master sniper König to put an end to the extraordinary skilled Russian sniper. Written by
Apart from Ron Perlman's "English Accent"...all characters use their normal speaking voices without modifying or mangling them for their characters' country of origin. For example, Ed Harris plays an Aristocratic German/Prussian Officer but he speaks in a normal American accent as he is an American actor. There isn't the "Germanized" English that you see in so many war movies. See more »
In the scene where Vassili first encounters Major König from the downed bomber outside the department store, after he fires he cycles the bolt on his rifle and a fully intact round is ejected, despite the round having been fired seconds beforehand. See more »
[whispering to boy aiming rifle]
I am a stone. I do not move. Very slowly, I put snow in my mouth. Then 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 do not tremble. I have no fear. I'm a big boy now. Ready Vassili? Now, Vassili, fire!
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Easily the best thing that has come out all year...
It would be all too easy to dismiss Enemy At The Gates as being an attempt to cash in on Saving Private Ryan's success, but in my opinion, it is a very worthy competitor. In fact, it is a better film. I say that primarily because I am sick to death of Americans using World War II as a basis for films that generally amount to little more than propaganda. Of course, Enemy At The Gates comes off as being somewhat fantastic due to its attempt to balance entertainment with historical fact, and it came as a surprise to me to learn that Sergeant Vassili Zaitsev was a real person (whose sniper rifle is still an exhibit in a Russian museum), but this makes it all the more entertaining to watch.
A lot of historians have it that the battle of Stalingrad was the most unpleasant one fought during the second World War, and this film's set design and cinematography capture that impeccably. When the Russians are battling the Nazis, you get the idea that if the Nazis didn't kill them, malnutrition, tetanus, scurvy, bubonic plague, or a million other things would. Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes lend authenticity to their roles that makes it even easier to follow them on their personal journey through hell, and Ed Harris is scarily convincing as a high-ranking Nazi. The real surprise here, however, is Rachel Weisz as Sergeant Tania Chernova, and the very heart and soul of the film. When she describes the reasons why she decided to take up a gun and battle the Germans, it all makes so much sense that you just want to buy the poor girl a beer and give her a good warm embrace. Not that such things would erase the scars that her character bears, but one would feel obligated to try.
Writer/Director Jean-Jacques Annaud, writer Alain Goddard, and cinematographer Robert Fraisse treat the subject matter with great care towards authenticity and entertainment value. It's very tricky to get these two things in proper sync, but they more than manage here. They also don't rely on any hokey photographic effects to tell the story, simply letting you see everything as clearly as possible, letting your imagination do the rest. Anyone who's read anything credible about the inhuman suffering the Russian soldiers endured during this battle will have no trouble filling in the gaps that the narrative leaves about their living conditions. The blood and gore shown during the battles is also very conducive to the atmosphere. Rather than just expecting you to believe that a solider gets his stomach spread all over half a kilometer of pavement by enemy bullets, they show you so you can get a feel for how bloodthirsty both sides in the confrontation were. Even the sex scene doesn't look out of place here.
To make a long story short, this is the first film I've seen in a long, long time that I haven't been able to come up with a list of criticisms for. It is simply excellent, and the 7.1 rating it is currently stuck with does not do it justice. It is easily superior to the likes of Platoon, the equal of more esoteric war films such as Three Kings, and it is miles above the likes of Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbour. Vassili Zaitsev would be very happy that his struggle has inspired such a commendable piece of art - it is exactly the sort of thing he and millions of others like him (on both sides of the planet) were fighting for.
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