Enemy at the GatesMarch 16, 2001
Two Russian and German snipers play a game of cat-and-mouse during the Battle of Stalingrad.
Release Year: 2001
Rating: 7.5/10 (87,055 voted)
Critic's Score: 53/100
Stars: Jude Law, Ed Harris, Joseph Fiennes
During the WWII battle of Stalingrad, two snipers, a Russian, and a German, are locked in a battle of wills and marksmanship, while the Russian is boosted to the status of hero by a political official.
Writers: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Alain Godard
(as Gabriel Marshall-Thomson)
Hans Martin Stier
Red Army General
(as Clemans Schick)
Mikhail N. Matveev
(as Mikhail Matveev)
A single bullet can change history.
Enemy at the Gates Official Site |
Release Date: 16 March 2001
Filming Locations: Babelsberg, Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $13,810,266
(18 March 2001)
Did You Know?
The duel between Zaitsev and Konig is partially based on records made by Zaitsev. The rifle scope taken from the killed German sniper is now at the Central Army Museum in Moscow, Russia. German who was shot in the duel was SS sniper Colonel Heinz Thorvald. The Germans claimed someone named Koenig had been shot in the duel and not Thorvald because they didn't want to admit their ace was down. This was claimed by Zaitsev, who also found the papers on the body identifying him as Thorvald.
When the camera focuses on Zaitsev after he first speaks to Danilov ("You'll get us caught, Comrade Commissar."), the "corpse" next to him blinks.
[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!
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.