Enemy At The Gates

"OK"

Enemy At The Gates Review


It's Stalingrad, late 1942. A young Russian sharpshooter is picking off Germans at will, bringing a much-needed lift to a demoralized Soviet army. The impatient Nazis send their top sniper to kill the man. A World War diminishes in scope to a battle of two. With such a promising plot, absolutely ripe for gutsy drama and emotion, why does Enemy at the Gates ultimately fail?

First, and foremost, because of its screenplay. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet, The Bear) and partner Alain Godard take a horrific true tale and sap it of its energy, irony, and tension. It starts off impressively enough: Russian soliders are immediately gunned down as they arrive in Stalingrad -- if not by the enemy, then by their own officers, who kill the boys when they retreat in terror. Vassily Zaitsev (Jude Law) becomes an instant hero when he plays dead, and in sniper fashion, shoots a number of unsuspecting Nazis.

That's well-paced, edge-of-your-seat stuff, primarily because we haven't been introduced to Vassily, and don't yet know of his talents. But we soon learn, as does Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), a witness to Vassily's daring actions, who quickly makes him a symbol of Russian pride and propaganda.

The dialogue between Danilov and Vassily rapidly becomes stilted, chest-thumping, men-in-war drivel, aiming for the proud heart of the viewer and ending up shooting itself in the foot. Unfortunately, this carries over into much of the film, and denies some solid actors even half a chance.

That illuminates the second problem: the acting. It's tough to tell where the bad dialogue ends, and the overdone performances begin. Law provides a glimmer of hope, playing Vassily as humble and understated (though with nary a shade of horror). Fiennes is ridiculous as Danilov, giving us too much scowling and way too much feigned pride. And Ed Harris, as the Nazi sniper Koenig, seems to be just going through the motions of an amazingly underwritten part. Most laughable, however, is Bob Hoskins as Khrushchev, bellowing lines like "You've lost half your men!? Well, lose the other half!" Why on Earth are a bunch of Russians speaking with subdued British accents?

The final problem in this analysis: Annaud takes no advantage of the story. We see no parallels, no dichotomy, no irony between Vassily and Koenig. Enemy at the Gates would have gained greatly from some link between the two men, something to make the viewer have to think. Instead, the "relationship" flounders in uncharted territory, as Annaud drags us through scenes that feel just like the ones before. There's even a misplaced romantic triangle somewhere in there (leading, by the way, to a love scene that's one of the few emotional and honest parts of the film).

For its 2:10 running time, Enemy at the Gates sounds stuffed to the gills and looks like an epic, but it ultimately feels empty. You'll be thinking of Saving Private Ryan during this -- and wishing you'd stayed home and watched that on DVD instead.

If however you find yourself faced with the Enemy at the Gates DVD, you'll find a number of extras, including a handful of deleted scenes that provide a little more backstory and add to the irony of the last act. Two making-of shorts are throwaways, but the biggest complaint with this disc is an awful sound design. In order to appeal to speaker enthusiasts, every explosion on this DVD is boosted to about twice the volume it ought to be at. I found myself constantly turning the volume down when the walls started shaking, only to turn it back up 30 seconds later because I couldn't hear the dialogue. Truly annoying. Stalin would have had someone shot.

Enemy on the wall.



Enemy At The Gates

Facts and Figures

Run time: 131 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th March 2001

Box Office USA: $50.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $97M

Budget: $70M

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Swanford Films, Paramount Pictures, Mandalay Pictures, KC Medien, Reperage, DOS, Little Bird, MP Film Management

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Fresh: 74 Rotten: 63

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , John D. Schofield

Starring: as Vassili Zaitsev, as Tania Chernova, as Major König, as Commisar Danilov, as Nikita Khrushchev, as Koulikov, as Mother Filipov, as Sacha Filipov, as General Paulus, Alexander Schwan as Young Vassili Zaitsev, as Comrade in Train, Gennadi Vengerov as Russian NCO, Dan van Husen as Political Officer

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.