PARAMOUNT PICTURES (2001)

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Starring: Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins, Ron Perlman

World War II rages on. It’s 1942 and Stalingrad is under siege. It’s being obliterated, to be frank. If Stalingrad falls to the might of the German army, then they have access to the oil mines of Asia. Everything rests on this small city standing tall in the face of the ferocity of the Nazis.

The story is very loosely based on the accounts of the War given by Zeitsev, who had ambitions to become the director of a textile factory. Zeitsev eventually killed 257 German soldiers through his rifle skills.

Jude Law presents the character of Vassili Zeitsev and pairs together a calm demeanour and vulnerability as he comprehends the situations faced. 

You can almost see his mind working as he lines up every shot, and the intensity in his eyes shines through well. His romantic scenes with Weisz also seem oddly genuine, so either well acted or just simply lust! Either way, it provides a believable affection.

Similarly, Ed Harris brings us a calm, steely killer whose sole focus is to get the job done efficiently, and is prepared to go to any lengths to achieve this. As with Law, the power portrayed within his eyes is impressive. A solid performance, as is to be expected.

It is somewhat jarring to be watching a movie about Russians and Germans, who speak with English and American accents. During the movie, Hoskins and Law accent’s seem to vary, and becomes especially noticeable during moments of rage or zeal. Harris’ quietly spoken Major succeeds a little more, but is still perplexing at times. Obviously it wasn’t possible to have the cast learn fluent Russian and German before filming, but the changes in voice are noticeable, and could have been prevented I believe.

The story itself is solid, creating drama and tension throughout and offering a believable romantic narrative, falling on the right side of the two way fight for the girl. It also delivers its fair share of thrilling, but not always positive, moments which is only fitting due to the circumstances. During the sniper duel, the silence is greatly noticeable, allowing the tension to rise as the combatants are pitted in various locations across wartorn Stalingrad. Contrast this with the party atmosphere as the returning soldiers celebrate returning safely - and alive. The ending was changed by the studio, and had they decided on the original, I believe the conclusion would have added extra gravitas to the story.

Enemy at the Gates puts us right in the heart of the Battle of Stalingrad, considered by many as the bloodiest and most devastating battle of World War II. As the bullets from the advancing aircraft tear through bodies, we hear every rip and see every entry wound – which goes for pretty much every sniper bullet fired also. The cameras being in the middle of the battle allows us to experience every blast, every battle cry, every shot fired and every death. It definitely adds to the frenzied feeling as the Germans superiority is apparent. It is another honest and violent example of the madness of the War.

August 16th 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

follow us
contact us
hear us