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Enemy at the Gates (2001)
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Review Date: March 14, 2001
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Writer: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Alain Godard
Producers: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Actors:
Jude Law
Joseph Fiennes
Ed Harris
Plot:
It's 1942 and Hitler's German army is making their way across Europe and Russia. The city of Stalingrad is now in play and the Russians are losing soldiers in droves. But along comes a young Russian sniper who starts dropping German leaders like peanuts. The Germans worry and bring in their own top sniper to whack out the Russian. The two men square off in a beaten down city as the war rages on around them.
Critique:
A very tense, cold, authentic-looking movie, featuring an engaging mano-a-mano battle between two captivating characters and stars, Ed Harris and Jude Law, many stunning artillery sequences and enough unpleasantries to turn anyone off to war forever. Here's a movie which takes place during the second world war, but isn't really about the war at all. This film focuses solely on the smaller battle within the grander fight for Stalingrad, featuring two marksmen searching for one another amid the greater chaos. A concept which might not sound too exciting on paper but once you're in the theater, this film pulls you in and dropkicks you across enemy lines. It starts with yet another awesome combat sequence a la SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, planes dropping bombs, soldiers getting drilled by bullets, pandemonium all around, but quickly, the story's foundation is revealed to you. Here are the Russians getting their asses whupped by the Germans and along comes a small town dude with an ability to strike things down from afar. Is he the hero needed to boost the morale of the Russian troops? You bet, and the film really gives you that sense of despair, that lack of leadership and that much needed fighting spirit required from the Russians. And then of course...there's Jude Law. What else could a film as such ask for?

Here's a great looking man, admired widely by both sexes, oozing more of his on-screen persona in this film and then upping the ante with a solid showing as the sniper who may not be the person that everyone believes him to be. Here's a character shown to be human with weaknesses of the heart and the soul. A man caught up in something larger than himself, but able to come to the forefront and do the things which he believes will help his country win. Kudos to Law for holding up his end, Joseph Fiennes for coming through as his nerdy comrade, and the ever-stoic Ed Harris for keeping his eye focused and standing firm as Law's persistent adversary. This is also a film of moments. As you might expect, a film focusing on two snipers is likely to have a few scenes featuring guys staring each other down. And this one does have plenty of those. But because of the strength of its characters, the believability of its surroundings, its sheer grandness and its tight story line, you cannot help but be truly engaged in every second of this film's suspenseful moments. This movie might not have the grand scope of a SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the deep message of a PLATOON, or the poetry of the depressing THE THIN RED LINE, but it does succeed in telling an interesting story and delivering on various fronts of entertainment as well. There is also a wide richness of detail in the film, a superb score which resonates way past the film's unique credit crawl and some across the board eye-opening cinematography.

This film was a definite treat for me, especially in the year of crapola movies thus far. Here's a picture that gives you lots to look at, lots to pay attention to and lots to care about. And yes, they've even added a small romance angle for the ladies, which thankfully didn't take up much of the film's runtime and is, for the most part, credible and touching. A grand movie filled with suspense, impressive visuals and an absorbing story line!
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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