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Everything that Pearl Harbor isn't
Jonathan-133 August 2001
Bursting into my Top Five war movies of all time is this film. A gritty and realistic portrayal of one of the worst battles in the history of war - the 1942-43 armwrestle for the city of Stalingrad.

Much has been made of the actors speaking in their native accents, but this seems a trivial complaint - the film is in English after all! More important is the masterful manner of speech of the actors - Bob Hoskins' gutteral exultations as Ukrainian potato farmer Nikita Krushchev; Joseph Fiennes' pompous and proud intonations as the political officer; Jude Law's common man for the peasant turned soldier; Ed Harris with the clipped and crisp tones of a German officer.

This is my pick for the best film of the year so far (August). It is truly a cinematic masterpiece, with horrific scenes of the violence of war, brilliant dialog and heart-wrenching tragedy. Expect to be moved.
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A selective distortion of history
sisko237418 March 2001
Warning: Spoilers
"Enemy at the Gates" by William Craig was a great history of the Battle of Stalingrad as retold by living participants. "War of the Rats" was a powerful, moving dramatization of Zaitsev and the Soviet snipers who fought at Stalingrad, as well as the Germans who opposed them. I thought that the movie would be based on at least the novel. I was disgusted to find out that the producer/director/writers chose to throw both of these memorable books out the window and instead manufacture their own vision of the battle that provided absolutely no historical insight, replacing the great stories of the two books with warmed over putrid anti-communism.

The movie goer gets no insight into the complexities of why Soviet soldiers fought and defeated the Germans at Stalingrad. Instead we are given the impression that the only reason any Soviet soldiers fought there was due to the threat of being machine gunned by the Stalinist "blocking units". Then suddenly, one commissar has a brilliant idea to "create a hero who will be an example" and the whole battle turns on Vasily Zaitsev. None of the other real acts of heroism at Stalingrad are shown, such as the soldiers who held out for 53 days in "Pavlov's house".

Further, the main function of Zaitsev's publicity in the Red Army newspaper was to popularize sniper techniques. This was not shown. Nor the sniper school set up where snipers were "mass produced" to harrass the Germans. The heroic deeds and harrowing adventures of the real Tania Chernov are never mentioned. Her being blown out of the boat on the Volga, surviving the journey through the sewers, behind German lines, her responsibility for the loss of several fellow snipers and Zaitsev's anger with her for that, all would have made great scenes.

The tension and suspense of snipers hunting each other for days was completely missing as well as the long range aspect of these duels. The ludicrous scene at the end where Konig and Zaitsev confront each other "High Noon" style was absurd. No sniper would expose himself like that, let alone battle hardened troops by that point in the battle, even Germans.

The insipid speech by Commissar Danilov at the end about "there will always be rich and poor" was apparently thrown in to reassure the viewers that the director and producer do not sympathize with "Communism".

All in all, this movie was a travesty both as art and as history. It did a severe disservice to both. Soviet soldiers who fought and died at Stalingrad did not only do so out of fear of NKVD retaliation. Patriotism against a genocidal invader was a real part of it. And yes, many actually believed that they were fighting for a better future, that they were saving socialism. Why is it that Craig's book and Robbins novel can convey these complexities of the battle of Stalingrad while all we get from the movie is an insipid love triangle, rediculous "sniper tactics" and lots of good old fashioned anti-communism. You don't have to cover up the truth about the crimes of Stalinism to make an accurate portrayal of Russians in the battle of Stalingrad. But you don't have to churn out an anti-communist diatribe either. The truth will not be found in either. Certainly not in the sorry cinematic adaptation of "Enemy at the Gates". The only thing it has in common with the history is the title.
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Easily the best thing that has come out all year...
mentalcritic28 July 2001
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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A fascinating film about the strategy of two great snipers…
Nazi_Fighter_David20 September 2008
In "Enemy at the Gates," the future of the greatest battle of World War II, would be decided between a young Russian sniper and an aristocratic sharpshooter from Germany sent to kill him… Jude Law and Ed Harris sit for hours waiting for the right moment… It was a duel set in the siege of Stalingrad… Stalingrad was one of the biggest and bloodiest battles of World War II, and in the midst of this huge battle, these two soldiers were hunting each other down…

The film opens with the harrowing transport of thousand of Russian soldiers across the Volga River to Stalingrad… The recruits were packed onto steamers, barges, whatever they could find to ferry them across the river… All that under a deluge of shells, bombs and explosions…

By the time Vassili arrives to Stalingrad, the Nazis have a distinct edge, and Soviet morale is at an all-time low…

Leading the Russians in their seemingly futile defense is Nikita Kruschev, played by Bob Hoskins… The Germans, at that time, were overrunning the place and the Russians were in an appalling state… It was the most awful battle of the war…

Joseph Fiennes plays Danilov, an idealistic Russian officer who passionately speaks about his belief in getting the troops to turn the grave situation in Stalingrad around… He finds the perfect inspiration in Vassili…

Rachel Weisz plays a young woman who volunteers to help in the war effort… She's literally protecting the people she grew up with… When she meets Vassili, he just has a natural intelligence, a natural instinct…

Jude Law is remarkable as the young sharpshooter Vassili Zaitsev who conveyed both humanity and intensity… There's such a fierce intelligence and liveliness in his eyes… He can also be very quiet and internal… Vassili found the complexity within the silence and stillness… In fact to be a sniper is very much about a man of action through stillness… Vassili represented the ultimate hero, the symbol of someone who could instill hope and belief in victory amongst the troops, because his skills as a sniper were unparalleled…

Ed Harris played Major Konig, the German sharpshooter sent to hunt down Vassili… He knows that Vassili was picking off German officers with some regularity, and was becoming a folk hero for the Russian soldiers as well as the Russian populace... He decided to eliminate him…

The casting of Ed Harris opposite Jude Law resulted in a striking visual link between their characters… They both have these unbelievably penetrating blue eyes… And director Jean-Jacques Annaud began to see the duel through their eyes… And one of the first shots of Ed Harris was a close-up of his blue eyes…

Annaud painted the tensions very clearly and concentrated purely on the eyes of the Jude Law and Harris and, of course, on their rifles and how they were hidden and what they were doing… Basically, the core of his camera is the duel of their eyes, duel of men, duel of snipers, therefore a confrontation of people that scan the surrounding buildings, and try to decipher what they see…
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A gross misrepresentation of the historical facts
jmek05211 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is so much about Hollywood propagating stereotypes and an ideological agenda and too little about portraying the true History behind the story. The Germans as usual are monsters and child killers and the Russians are controlled by a brutal communist ideology. The movie missed the true historic dimension of the tragedy that Stalingrad was, the horrific losses of life on both sides and how human lives are worth nothing during a war. The part that I found the most untruthful was the killing of the boy by the German sniper. In order for this story to be true we will have to believe that a 12 year old Russian kid in Stalinist Russia was capable of speaking perfect German and Russian to communicate with his enemies and move back and forth between the two sides unless of course both combatants spoke English during the war. So much for Hollywood and historical facts. Chepe (jmek052)
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Stupidity at the gates
emailkristina8912 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It's not about real people and problems but about Freudian archetypes like the handsome hero, the two lovebirds, the genius little boy etc.

First off, real Vasiliy Zaitsev was ugly, but I guess that would be too complicated for the Western audience so they used boyband like, raspberry looking Jude Law instead. Who cares for the complex truth when there are so many good feelings to get.

Second, if a 12-year old boy would reach the proficiency with German language that would allow them to talk freely to an officer, the NKVD would not let him walk around freely, they would lock him up in the Gulag or at least use them for their own purposes. In any case, he wouldn't run around in shorts and a thin jacket in the Russian winter that killed the German army.

Third, when the Russian people are undergoing genocide and the fate of the world is being decided in Stalingrad, a soldier would not run around in his bunker, happy that his face has been printed in the Pravda, like a hipster who just opened its first weblog. I realize that modern Western people are all about recognition from their peer group, but trust me, during the biggest war in human history, people had other problem's on their minds.

If you watched this film and you didn't feel intellectually insulted, I suggest you.... take a Russian history class.
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Entertaining disinformation
itpastorn29 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
It's the Battle of Stalingrad. Things are not going well for the Red Army. The film suggests that should they loose this battle they will also loose the war. But the soldiers and the officers only know defeat, they have no hope of victory.

Enter a political commas (Fiennes) who has witnessed superb shooting by the soldier Zaitsev (Law) - killing a bunch of German officers taking a shower very near the front line (sic!). Zaitsev is turned into a sniper and his exploits are front page news all over the Soviet Union. He and his comrades are so successful that the German army ceases to function properly, only a few hundred meters away from the river Volga and Victory.

This is the setting for this movie, and the sniper duel that follows between Zaitsev and his German counterpart Konig (Ed Harris) is good entertainment. The love affair between Zaitsev and the female soldier Tania (Weisz) does not add to the suspense, but is forgivable. Some people like romance in movies, and why not? It does not make the story any better though.

Some people seem to believe that this movie is historically mostly accurate. That is not correct. There was a battle in Stalingrad. It was a bloody mess. Zaitsev was a good sniper and he killed a lot of Germans. Almost everything else in this movie is fiction and/or unrealistic. It is impossible to get every detail right, but in this movie the main plot - the duel between Zaitsev and Konig - is pure fiction and Soviet propaganda. And the idea that Zaitsev sort of "won the battle" is also absurd. He was part of their delaying forces in the city. Operation Uranus - a pincer move with tanks - was what really won the battle.

Enjoy the movie if you like. The acting is good, the scenery and costumes are OK, visual effects mostly OK. Just do not think you are learning history or are seeing realistic military tactics.
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An extrordinary work of raw skill and imagination.
mhasheider21 August 2001
A gut-wrenching and impressive hide-and-seek thriller that uses the bloody battle of Stalingrad (during the second World War) as the clever disguise here for a real battle of courage and determination. The film follows a young and highly talented Russian sniper from the Urals, Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law - "eXistenZ", "The Talented Mr. Ripley"), who gains national fame from the help of Danilov (Joesph Fiennes - "Shakespeare in Love"), a propoganda officer and his true love and fellow sniper, Tania (Rachael Weisz), who is also flirting with Danilov.

However, the Germans have an ace sniper of their own in Erwin Koning (Ed Harris - "Pollock"), a seasoned and out-spoken Major who comes to Stalingrad only to pick off Vassili. And before Koning leaves, his superior officer asks how he'll find Vassili. Koning says, " I'll fix it so he finds me."

The love triangle that director Jean-Jacques Annaud and co-writer Alain Godard put in the story shows that the pair took a chance and I'll give them credit for doing it. Plus, the love scene that Law and Weisz have is one of the strangest (no offense to either one) that I've seen.

The film's best moments come when Vassili tries to catch Koning off guard, but the problem is Koning is aware of what Vassili is capable of. I won't say how it's done, but the final confrontation is a genuine nail-bitter.

All of the performances here are powerhouse and that includes Bob Hoskins as Nikita Kruschev, a snarling and impatient man and Ron Perlman, who portrays Koulikov, a lieutenant whose teeth are all metal and serves as a guide for Vassili.

Robert Frassie ("Ronin") handles the movie's photography with care and the appearrence of Stalingrad itself reminded me heavily of the war-torn cities shown in Spielsburg's "Saving Private Ryan" and Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket". Also, James Horner conducts a tender and extremely mournful score that leaves a quiet yet important reminder of how awful war is.

"ENEMY AT THE GATES" is an extrodinary work of raw skill and imagination.
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Opening the gates of my mind
alan_ashcroft28 March 2001
At first glance I must admit I thought "Oh no!" not another war movie trying to cash in on the success that Saving Private Ryan had. However when I viewed this film it turned out to be a great surprise in my mind. Its the story of a man brought to fame in a form of propaganda to help the disintegrating Russian forces keep faith. The boy (Law) was obviously talented however nearly lost his own faith when poised against his greatest challenge, the prized German sniper. The story line throughout kept me glued to the screen leading up to a wonderful climax.

The wonder of friendship and love also have a great deal in the plot and realistically portrays both in those times of chaos and death. I urge any reader who is doubting this films credentials to swallow their pride and sit down to watch this film. You will not be disapointed in the least.

In saying this I would like to just add that I feel there could have been improvement in the accents as sometimes I was finding it hard to grasp that the Germans were fighting the Russians and not the English, but otherwise 10 out of 10.
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Tense war drama that centers the viewer in the German invasion of Stalingrad
geopat20045 February 2005
I simply want to weigh in with a very positive response to Enemy at the Gates. Taken as a historical drama rather than an attempt to flawlessly depict an historical incident, this is topnotch entertainment. "Enemy" portrays the conflict between a young Russian sniper played by Law and the German sniper (Harris) who is sent to kill him during the German attack on Stalingrad during WWII. Apart from a scene which awkwardly caricatures the Russian field commanders and the occasionally distracting accents, the film successfully immerses the viewer in this tense war drama. Appreciate it it for its tight focus, uncompromising realism, and fine characterizations by the main actors. Research the historical accuracy later, if you must, but don't let it spoil the film.
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brilliantly flawed ... is still brilliant
A_Different_Drummer16 February 2017
In the grand tradition of Old Hollywood, this international co-production seeks to frame the key battle of WW2 (the REAL key battle, not the ones from the John Wayne movies) as a morality tale involving a love triangle.

It is a bold idea, and beautifully executed.

In fact an argument could be made -- and I will make it -- that any flaws in the execution (it lags a bit here and there) are the result of the film-makers' "reach exceeding their grasp" and they attempted too much, more than one film could ever accomplish.

But what a film it is! You viewer feel as though you are there, making history. The four stars involved have, each of them, never given a bad performance in their careers and they surely maintain their records here.

Ed Harris in particular -- although he has less screen time -- will always to this reviewer seem a vastly under-rated actor. (This review written in 2017 where an older Harris still uses his charisma in a defining role for HBOs Westworld .... and nails it.) Recommended? Absolutely! In the Metacritic data that IMDb so helpfully provides I could not help but notice one reviewer commenting that, well, it sure isn't in the same class as SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

Which is the irony of doing film reviews. I have never not once thought of wanting to see SAVING PRIVATE RYAN again, but this film is one I like to revisit every few years. Magnificent.
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ENEMA AT THE DOOR: an Foreigner Will Not Notice, a Russian Will Not Forgive
a8876907 May 2009
I got to see the widely publicized in the West movie "Enemy at the Gates", directed by Jean Jaques Annaud. After "Saving Private Ryan", which had left an overall good impression, I hoped that this Hollywood product would turn out to be on the same level. But contrary to my expectations... Well, let's start from the beginning.

From the first moments I was struck by the rosy, well-fed faces of the Russian soldiers going to the front. Of course, I understand that life in the West is nice and sweet, but where were the makeup artists? All Soviet soldiers wore brand new greatcoats. Throughout the entire movie I only saw well-fed, not to say fat, faces, and even Danilov's three day stubble (incidentally, why does he walk around unshaven in the army?) badly masks his well-groomed face. I think the director never even considered the fact that life on the Soviet home front in 1942 wasn't sweet, McDonalds restaurants just weren't there, and sausages didn't get buttered. I was also amused about how people riding inside the freight rail cars were standing. I think the director has never even tried to imagine how it felt to ride in such a car, how it shakes you from side to side, and far from anyone would manage to stay on his feet.

Meanwhile, the train arrives at some station, all the civilians are unloaded, soldiers are herded inside, and... some men started locking the cars! That's right! It turns out that Soviet soldiers had to be padlocked. Why? I don't know. Probably, the director believes that our grandfathers fought only from fear, that if it was up to them, they would've ran away, and nobody would've been left to fight the valiant German army.

Meantime, the train arrives at the Stalingrad station, the padlocks are unlocked, and evil officers start dragging the soldiers out of the cars! And another political officer stands nearby (probably, the chief one, and a big boss above the other political officers), waves a red flag, and yells into a tin megaphone. I don't know how our Western comrades see this picture, but it sent me into a spasm of laughter. I haven't seen such a silly scene even in the comedy series "Fitil'" (Fuse). But speaking seriously, this is already an insult, and it's more serious than it could seem in the beginning. Russian soldiers are shown as dumb cattle, led by the evil devils-political officers. And incidentally, political officers were different. Sh*t can occur anywhere, not just among the political officers, that's why depicting them in such perverted manner looks extremely insulting. And that is exactly how they are depicted! I specifically made several screen shots so that you could see that people with the most disgusting faces were selected for the roles of political officers. I don't know, why Jaques Annaud feels personally slighted by the political officers, maybe they stole his money or a cow, but his bitter hatred for our grandfathers literally oozes from the screen!

The scene where the soldiers were unloaded from the train reminded me of a mass escape from a psychiatric hospital, but not the Red Army. I don't know, perhaps the US Army troops unload in just such a manner?

The scene of an attack. I was simply shocked by the fact that the attack began at the whistle of a mad officer! Who proposed this nonsense to the director? Or did he think really hard, and then couldn't come up with anything better? Probably it's what they call "artistic license". The attack itself follows the best traditions of the Western idea of how could the Russians attack. In other words - complete rubbish. Soldiers simply run as fast as they can at the machine guns, like a herd of cattle! Machine guns fire long bursts at them. This insulting stupidity, under the name of "Human Waves", was invented in the West during the times of the Cold War, and Jaques Annaud simply faithfully portrayed that fairy tale on the big screen.
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morganchaos16 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I hated this movie. War movies are difficult to pull off as it is, at least historical ones, but this one fails more miserably than any I've seen. There are some okay moments. There's a few good moments between actors, and occasionally you can get the tension of the cat-and-mouse game of the two snipers. However, the rest is terrible. It's all war scenes, with one drinking scene and one sex scene. There's no chemistry between Jude Law and Rachel Weisz, and this is the probably the main reason why the sex scene is so weak and distasteful. It seems a little like a last-ditch attempt to say both "Look! These characters really do have a relationship! They're having sex!" as well as "Look! It really is hard for these characters! They're having sex on a tiny cot!" Not to mention an excuse to show Rachel Weisz' ass.

This is two hours of my life that I want back.
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A "real" war for those who never saw one
Gradomyr5 August 2002
Being a russian I want to say that many russians are offended by this movie. Though it has some real stuff in it, many things are stupid and even abusive. Like russian soldiers being brought to the front line in the sealed cars with barred windows like criminals or some sort of cattle. Or soviet officers only drinking vodka and shouting around. How did they win the war only doing that?

A Hollywood director sitting in his cozy chair can't even imagine what was that war like. And I think he doesn't want to. In Russia, we've been taught a little about the war. Stalingrad had a long battle in the middle of a coldest winter of the century. People were starving and freezing to death. And a red-cheeked boy walking around in shorts (at -40!!!) looks like a stupid joke. So does a soldier woman with long painted nails putting on her make-up before the attack. So does the slogan in Russian on the wall "Long live the socialism". Does the director really think the Russians were such maniacs to write on the walls how they loved the socialism? "We will win!" That's a real slogan from that time.

This movie has a lot more inaccuracies but I can't and don't want to enumerate them all. Just... the director should be embarrassed of his work.
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There's something missing here...
MovieAddict201626 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
"Enemy at the Gates" seems as if it can't make up its mind as to whether it is a brutal war epic or an affectionate character study. Both of these can work together and form a terrific movie, or they can seperate and become their own. This one's in-between. It held my interest in certain areas, but yet also left me a bit disgruntled by the way it manipulates its audience. And there's a silly love story thrown in for good measure. That does it.

Jude Law plays Vassili, a Russian sniper during World War II whose name may have been inspired by Vasoline gel as a funny in-joke. Vassili used to be a shepherd and learned how to aim a gun when he had to pick of wolves from a distance. There's a terrific opening sequence that reminded me of D-Day assault in Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan." But this battle goes on for too long and doesn't move like it should.

After the mini-assault in the beginning of the film, Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) is introduced as the political officer assigned to Vassili's unit. They take a liking to each other, but they both also take a liking to Vassili's neighbor, Tanya (Rachel Weisz). Tension builds between the two men as Ed Harris comes into this mess, playing Konig, a Bavarian man who is assigned to assassinate Vassili. He makes a remark that he will not find Vassili. He will let Vassili find him.

Here starts a quite amazing story that could have been tremendous given a better touch and a better editing job. The movie isn't too long by the standards of most war films, but it certainly seems longer than most war films, and when you start to wonder why the faults of the movie start to hit you like a bag of bricks.

There's an interesting and disturbing scene at one point when Russian soldiers are inside a demolished building. There's a big gaping crater at along the interior of the house, and the crater created a large hole in the wall overlooking the surroundings outside. Vassili does a leap of faith and makes it across unscathed. But the man who jumps next has his head blown apart mid-way across the crater. We then see Konig outside in a ditch, his sniper rifle smoking.

Scenes like this make the movie rise out of mediocrity for a moment or two before it slips, like the dead man who tried to leap across the hole, into a crater. Perhaps this is the main fault of "Enemy at the Gates"--it tries too hard. Or perhaps too little. I liked the idea of a cat-and-mouse game set in World War II. But it isn't put to good use. The scenes that should come off terrifying, potent and paranoid come off simply as boring. There's a scene in the movie when Vassili is trapped behind an object with Konig right outside, his sights set on the boundaries of this object. Vassili makes a run for it, he's dead. He stays around long enough, and he's dead. But the paranoia of the scene never builds. My mind started to wander. That should never happen in a film like this.

Jean-Jacques Annad ("Seven Years in Tibet") knows how to evoke surroundings, but his characters are wholly unbelievable on the whole, and every time he is given good potential for a tense scene he seems to nod in the director's chair. The love story is reeking of the typical Hollywood treatment. Whereas a film such as "Braveheart" uses its tender love story to a definite advantage in regards to the story, the love story in "Enemy at the Gates" does little but tarnish the film's remaining image. And that's too bad.

2.5/5 stars.

  • John Ulmer
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The futility of war, and what causes it.
David-24024 November 2001
I really loved this film. It is one of the best movies about war - what it is like, and what causes it. I know some people find the love story hard to take, but it is there to illustrate how jealousy and envy can lead to irrational acts, hate, and even war.

At a time when the world is racing toward armed conflict yet again, this film is a timely reminder of the ultimate futility of war. The opening sequence is one of the most horrific I have ever seen - comparable to that incredible opening scene in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. But unlike "Ryan", this film does not become a flag-waving one-sided analysis of war. Instead we get an in depth, and very moving, look at the reality of being human in a war situation - whether male or female, German or Russian. And Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and Ed Harris all give superb performances. I was a bit hard-pressed, though, to believe Bob Hoskins as Krushchev.

Jean-Jacques Annaud is a remarkable director, with a strong visual style, and deserves to be recognised as one of the contemporary masters of cinema. Ten out of Ten.
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Best Described as an Insult. Used better as firewood.
AKalinoff2 July 2005
When my American friends told me about this Movie I thought I might enjoy it. After 5 minutes I did not know whether to be angry or disgusted. The battle of Stalingrad(Leningrad is modern St. Petersburg up north, Stalingrad is Volgograd in Russia's south) has never before been so knowingly destroyed and revised to demonize and smear the country that won the war in Europe, and helped to fight and defeat Japan before it attacked the US in 1938-39.

My family, hometown, and countrymen have never been so insulted in their fight for survival.

The movie better describes a WW1 situation on the Eastern Front, not WW2, the USSR had become the largest industrialized entity on the planet by 1941. Blockaded Leningrad managed to produce its own version of an SMG even though it was mostly cut off.

Germany invaded on June 22nd 1941, not 1942 as some who saw the film think. They 1st lost at Moscow and were pushed back. Hitler intended to cut off the South from the North by taking the Volga, and capture the oil rich Caucasus.

He failed in all objectives, and not just in Stalingrad.

True up to October 1941 Germans only suffered 1/3 the casualties of the USSR, about 300,000 compared to 850,000(plus up to 1 million people taken prisoner for their ties to the Communist Party and Army), still the greatest loss of German life since WW1. At Moscow all the Axis Nations suffered a humiliating defeat that over 4 months caused 500,000 dead/wounded/captured on the Axis Allies.

"Enemy at the Gates" was not interested in history.

I never knew General Chuikov committed suicide, I was under the impression he lead the 62nd Army to victory. And it was not the Bureaucrat, Khruschev, who took command of the Soviet Army, but Veteran General Giorgi Zhukov, who employed massed ARTILLERY and AIRCRAFT on enemy positions. Actual Frontal Assaults never took place in the city.

It was not human waves that won the battle. But Assault Squads organized for best efficiency in House to House fighting.

The Germans had company. At the end of the battle an Army Group(B) of some 6 different Armies of Germans, Italians, Romanians, Hungarians, and Bulgarians surrendered.

If young Russians take this movie seriously, then it is true that the Russian Educational System has fallen behind. Considering the footage of WW2 and the documentaries of it on Russian TV.
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pure crap
kg6141010 April 2001
What most fascinates me here is the different tastes people have; I simply can't believe it when people praise this film. It must be a joke! It has to be...

This movie had nothing good in it except the WWII setting, which I hope would be exploited more. The characters were shallow and acted idiotic, emotional outbursts just came out of clear blue sky and ended in a few cheering words like 'it'll be OK..' It was like watching a cheap soap opera.

Acting was terrible (apart from Ed Harris, who, BTW. didn't come across as a character who'd hang a little boy. Why did they have to put that there, wasn't there any other way of getting people interested in the outcome of the duel??? Why doesn't hollywood let us take our own sides instead of pushing us to a situation where there are no longer any options?). Jude Law, who I used to think as a good actor, landed on his butt in this one. He's SOOOO British, that it's kind of hard to accept him as a shepherd from the Urals!

All in all, if you liked this movie then a) you're hot for either one of the lead actors and can not think clearly b) have a limited capability of understanding quality or c) you must be joking, which is probably the case.
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A joke, from both a historical and a cinematic points of view
Pastor Shlug19 March 2001
First of all, I think it was a mistake for the screenwriters to pick and choose such a big event in the history of WWII, a turning point so to speak, only to have it placed as a background, to something so much less significant, a duel between two snipers. If one has never read anything historical or seen any chronological movies about battle of Stalingrad, or any other battle for that matter before seeing this movie, one might even wonder, how did Russians win the war at all? With one rifle per four hands? Against tanks? And aircraft? And heavy artillery? You know there's only so much even a drunken Russian can do with his ½ of a rifle. I see all these peoples' comments complaining that the main characters' accents were too British or too American and that that spoiled the true Russian Character, however the Hollywood makers portray that to be. But, being Russian myself, I saw nothing in the movie, at least on the Russian side, that resembled any truth to even how people spoke to each other, how they interacted with each other. They just didn't seem Russian to me, and it didn't matter what accents they used. These characters were biased cardboard characters, speaking cardboard character lines, and acting, well, cardboard-like. In the opening scenes of the movie they show a bunch of unarmed people thrown into battle only to be massacred by well armed Germans. That's a crock of sh*t, pardon my Russian. Basically by 1942, Hitler's army was fighting on two fronts, and it was very, very tired. Both sides were. Both sides were running out of people and supplies. Mostly, Battle of Stalingrad was a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of war. People charging and taking over some useless strategic point and then being thrown back, and then charging again. It was a battle to see who had a bigger stamina, because both sides were low in numbers. But it was also a battle involving tanks, artillery, and planes on BOTH sides. In the movie they omitted that, showing us diving Stukas, and yet surprisingly, no anti-aircraft guns firing at them, no Russian planes in the sky, just two soldiers armed with one rifle. Bullsh*t. No number of Vasiliy Zaycevs or Tatyana Whoevers would be able to stand off, and more even, reverse the tide of war against Germans, without having, basically an equally, if not better, equipped army at their side. If you look at the numbers, about 250,000 German and about 100,000 Russian soldiers lost their lives over Stalingrad. Well from the movie it might seem the opposite. Plus the whole mood of the movie. Russian soldiers, seemed no different from prisoners, defending Stalingrad only because of the muzzles pointed at their backs. But actually, believe it or not, many of these people were defending their motherland, their wives, daughters, sons, etc. and they were doing it not because they were to be shot otherwise, but because they loved their country and believed in its future. True, there were special NKVD units that were ordered to fire on retreating soldiers. But there was no other way, at that point. If Stalingrad would've fallen, that would greatly demoralize an entire Red Army, and cause an even greater loss of life. But by no means were soldiers thrown into battle, half-armed into their certain death. That would just be pointless, even for ruthless Russian Generals. Plus when they showed Kruschev commanding the front, I fell off my seat laughing. I can go on and on, and this would be a never-ending story, except that I don't want it to be as boring and as never-ending as the script for Enemy at the gates. Advice for people who like a little reality in their movies, don't see it. It sucks. I try to picture Private Ryan done by the same director. It just wouldn't be Private Ryan, but some stupid unrealistic war flick, sort of like U-571.
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Massive failure
MarkYohalem17 March 2001
There are so many things that went wrong in this movie that treating them all in paragraph form would probably exceed the one thousand word limit imposed by the Database. I do believe, however, that all the problems can be wrapped under the single title "Mood."

What is wrong with the mood in Enemy At the Gates? Everything. Let's start simply: music. Despite a reasonably solid history, James Horner embarrasses himself. For his sake, I can only hope that Arnaud can be blamed for this, and not Horner (I enjoyed his work in Legends of the Fall.) The music is constantly "Mickey Mouseing" the action on the scene; that is, in case the viewer is too dumb to understand what's happening visually, the music clues him in. When we first encounter Ed Harris, the music keys up an evil score -- in case we had thought these were the Good Nazis. When trouble seems to be brewing, the music mimics it. This is not necessarily a cardinal sin. Most movies, to some extent, use music in this fashion. But when it is as invasive as the music of GATES, it deserves a demerit.

Accents. I had several discussions about this before seeing the film, defending GATES on the basis that "Russians don't sound accented to each other when they're speaking, so there's no reason to accent a supposedly all-Russian army. Unfortunately, the director (Arnaud) made some grievous errors with the accents. First of all, within a country as large as the USSR, regional dialects are pervasive. However, the only "regional accents" we hear are US or British accents. Which means that Jude Law -- supposedly an uneducated peasant -- speaks with his usual British flair. Secondly, Arnaud at times seems to forget that the Germans are speaking German and the Soviets Russian. As a result, Ed Harris can easily converse with a Russian boy with no linguistic problems (is the message that a German nobleman learned Russian, or that the boy knew German? I do not know.) All in all, it's another invasive element.

Stalingrad. It certainly looks pretty enough (or, impressively destroyed), though Aranaud spends an inordinate amount of time showing us a symbolic statue of Stalin (it seems that not just American directors are obsessed over Russias old cast-iron statues.) Yet geographically, we start to run into problems. Any character can find any other character within a matter of minutes -- despite the fact that the city is a warzone, rubble-strewn, and gigantic. It's simply strange, and more than slightly silly. My friends and I were laughing constantly by the end when Arnaud's harsh cuts (which would often show dramatic lighting changes within a single scene) would teleport Law from the Volga to the front and back again before breakfast was done.

We see one civilian (excluding a rushed evacuation scene) the entire movie. We never get ANY notion that this is a populous city that is being annihilated. In fact, the closest thing we get is a cliche, "This is my home" (with Horner playing it up for us, of course)...the woman saying that evacuates within two minutes. No one else ever mentions anything.

The love story. Jesus H. Christ. The one provoked fits of laughter -- especially from the girls in our group. One excellent scene has Jude Law and Racquel Weisz engaged in intercourse, in a tunnel, surrounded by 30 sleeping soldiers on all sides. Aside from the fact that Weisz achieves multiple orgasms this way (or so her ludicrous acting would suggest), she seems to really enjoy having Law's filthy, filthy hands rubbed over her face and lips. As I said, laughable. Much like the friendship between Fiennes and Law, the romance between the three seems based on convenience. Fiennes and Law become fast friends because they are using each other for fame (isn't that the truest form of friendship?), and Weisz has two fans because she's attractive and extremely sexually liberated. There is certainly no suggestion -- except in the apparent expectation on the viewers to fill in this element -- that there is anything ROMANTIC going on between Law and Weisz. If there was, it got cut in favor of the scene in which the snipers, having pinned down their adversary, take a break to have sex and sleep. Unfortunately, their young friend pays the price of their licentious habits.

I could go on and on about the way Arnaud insults our intelligence. The Russians smoke hand rolled cigarettes looking like joints -- the evil German smokes gold foil, machine rolled cigarettes. In case we forget that the Germans aren't really worse than the Russians, we are reminded of various attrocities. In case we don't know what the Battle of Stalingrad was, the film explains it with an expository introduction complete with the colored Nazi region of a map expanding into the Soviets. Oh, the Soviets are red, in case you forgot they were Communist.

The movie is a farce; what pleasure is to be had is in spite of the movie. The cast is full of excellent actors, who I suppose help carry some of the bloated weight of the movie. The special effects are neat, if misused. The sniper scenes are...well...sniper scenes, but you get a good hour of them if they're your thing. And you see Weisz's naked rear.


There are so many better movies made about WWII -- both from the European standpoint and the American. If you're looking for a movie about the Evils of Stalin, I recommend Burnt by the Sun. As for WWII flicks in general, there are enough that you can darn well find one yourself.
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Takes a few wrong turns, but ends up effective for people in which it sounds interesting. Good performances. *** (out of four)
Movie-1214 April 2001
ENEMY AT THE GATES / (2001) *** (out of four)

By Blake French:

"Enemy At The Gates" takes place in 1942 and details a cat and mouse chase between two snipers. The mouse is a young Russian named Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law), who arrives on the shores of the Volga River to defend Stalingrad, an important city in which the German's are attempting to capture. Zaitsev soon finds himself befriending a political officer named Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), who is impressed by the soldiers quick skills and decides to glorify him through the local press. Zaitsev becomes a political icon for the locals, giving them encouragement and increasing their hope for victory.

The cat is an opposing sniper named Major Koenig (Ed Harris), a famous sharpshooter called upon to kill Zaitsev. Koulikov (Ron Perlman), another talented sniper, is assigned to help Zaitsev in killing Koenig before the Major takes a victory shot. To further complicate matters, Zaitsev falls in love with another soldier, Tania (Rachel Weisz), whose parents were killed by the enemies, and wants to redeem their honor.

"Enemy At The Gates" certainly paints a vivid, graphic depiction of war. The atmosphere is unsettling and bleak, the characters are almost always dirty and sleepless, the fighting scenes consist of brief, short, instantaneous shots, but the sequences are fast-paced, genuine, and disturbing. The city looks battered and tormented. The dialogue goes hand and hand with the character's actions; the plot is challenging and the movie is focused, about something solid. In the sequences where Koenig and Zaitsev challenge one another, the tension is very effective. The movie tends to realize that, and concentrates a great deal of effort in making those scenes suspenseful and taut.

Joseph Fiennes plays a meek, nervous character and does a good job at bringing him to life believably. Jude Law, whose last work in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" provides a tough act to follow, accomplishes great things with a determined and assiduous character. Ed Harris is the standout actor here, in a harrowing, steadfast, juicy performance. Rachel Weisz cannot do a whole lot with her character, however. She often feels strained and contrived.

"Enemy At The Gates" tries hard to express the subject of the media's influence in our culture. If the film, co-written and directed by Jean-Jaques Annaud ("Seven Years in Tibet"), would have stayed on that concept, it would have been a whole lot better. The romance between Zaitsev and Tania is kind of unnecessary, and I am not sure if the sex scene is obligatory or advances their relationship. This love side story lacks passion; a lot of it feels mechanical and routine. "Enemy At The Gates" is still a consistently intriguing war film-rare because it does not involve Americans. While we are never really concerned about the outcome of the actual war, nor do we entirely care about several aspects of the main characters, there are many good scenes of suspense, and the overall mood of the movie is effective. "Enemy at the Gates" is worth seeing if it sounds interesting to you.
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This movie blew.
johnpauljones4 April 2001
This movie was a travesty for many reasons, lets list a few.

a) The Russians did not have cockney accents. "Let's go kill some Jerries, Govna!"

b) The dialogue was as if it was written by a 4 year old illiterate.

c) Too long, not much action for a war movie.

d) Too sappy! It's war for heaven's sakes! The Russian people of Stalingrad would have been more stoic in their approach to war, instead of crying over every last little thing.

e) Overpropagandic against communism at the end.

f) German-Russian shoe shine boy exchange program never existed!

g) Too many unexplained conflicts and friendships.

h) Movies about snipers should contain more sniping, and less kissy- kissy time.
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Fantasy Stalingrad has no relation to history
haythornthwaite18 August 2001
Enemy at the Gates completely misrepresents the history of the battle and slanders the brave sacrifice of the Soviet people to defeat Nazism. I strongly recommend reading the book 'Enemy at the Gates' to see how little of the movie is true.

The story of the sniper is one small story in the book that was complied from hundreds of interviews with veterans from both sides. The story of the sniper was significantly changed for the film from the true story which is much more compelling.

All the Generals who actually led the battle are ignored in the film except Kruschev. Kruschev was Political Commissar at the Front level and was involved in the overall planning of the defensive battle and the encirclement of the German 6th army at Stalingrad. He did not command the 62th army in Stalingrad, this was General Chuikov, a true hero. The entire battle was commanded by Marshal Zhukov ( the general who never lost a battle ) in close collaboration with Stalin. After the death of Stalin, Kruschev had his role inflated and Zhukov, Stalin and Chuikov ignored.

There is no sense of the battle in the film either at the unit level or overall. The Red Army used firegroups of 25 men armed with bags of grenades and sub machine guns to fight the Germans house to house in the rubble. There was little of the human wave tactics portrayed in the film. Building were fought over room by room and floor by floor. No one went in the open as this was certain death to either side.

The battle consisted of the Red army holding on to a tiny corner of the city while the German forces were ground down. When the Germans were weakened, Soviet reserves north and south of the city broke through the weakened flanks off the Nazi forces and surrounded the entire 6th Army and part of the 4th Panzer Army.

The 6th Army was Germany's greatest strike force, the same one that conquered France so quickly. At least 330,000 German soldiers from its elite force were killed or captured. Only about 10,000 survived to return to German after the war.

Germany never recovered from this loss and it marked to start of their defeat.

Please read the book Enemy at the Gates and forget this terrible film
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A good cat and mouse game.
WalterFrith17 June 2001
Ed Harris (the Nazi) and Jude Law (the Russian) are matched against each other as World War II snipers serving their countries. Joseph Fiennes is also good in a pivotal role as is Bob Hoskins as Nikita Khrushchev and Rachel Weisz as a strong female character. This is a compelling look at the constantly needed reminder that simply, war is terrible and the innocent victims that suffer is even more tragic. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud's still framed direction has always lacked a depth of character development but he still makes admirable films for the high end lovers of film art.
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Open these gates and let people in
Hollywood Chief19 March 2001
After watching such films as "Saving Private Ryan" and "Patton;" I have come to appreciate war films. For this reason, I decided to see the latest war film, "Enemy At The Gates."

"Enemy At The Gates" may be one of the best war films I have seen since "Saving Private Ryan" because it is executed perfectly. With incredible performances, script and the impact I felt; "Enemy At The Gates" sets the tone as the first great war film of the 22nd century. This film can be served as the appetizer to the main course coming out soon, "Pearl Harbor."

Jude Law, Joseph Feinnes, Rachel Weisz, Ed Harris and Bob Hoskins come together to re-visit the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942. The best thing about seeing each one of the actors perform was they all gave 100 percent effort to make the film as real as possible; they did an excellent job. Fiennes, Weisz and Hoskins were the icing to a cake that was delicious from the start.

The highlights of "Enemy At The Gates" always came when Law and Harris were on screen because they played excellent psychological mind games with one another to win; furthermore, it was like watching master chess players playing for the grand prize. It was also enjoyable to see the strategies and tactics each would use to out-maneuver the other.

"Enemy At The Gates" drew me with its many action sequences similar to those in "Saving Priate Ryan." Also, the love triangle between the three main leads was interesting to watch and see how it would unfold. I felt like I was in the movie because the writer did an excellent job at making me feel exactly what they felt and experience what they were going through.

There is no rule that states dialogue is needed for a successful film. While "Enemy At The Gates" has dialogue, the scenes that have none stand out in my mind the most because we see close-ups of both snipers and the expressions on their faces. This is incredible to me because the intensity shown on their faces speaks volumes about what the movie is really about.

This may not be the best war film ever made but with two of the brightest young stars on the rise, an actress that is here to stay and a veteran that continues to turn in knock-out performances, "Enemy At The Gates" will be remembered for a long time.
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