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Overall Rating

Awesome: 24.03%
Worth A Look41.86%
Average: 13.18%
Pretty Bad: 16.28%
Total Crap: 4.65%

7 reviews, 87 user ratings

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Enemy at the Gates
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by EricDSnider

"Oh, if only they'd stopped this movie five minutes earlier!"
4 stars

As "Enemy at the Gates" worked toward its finale, I jotted "A-" -- the grade I intended to give it -- on my notepad. It had its flaws, but was overall a riveting, meticulous war story that gripped its audience and wouldn't let go.

Then, after the movie should have ended, there was a "two months later" epilogue. Awe-struck at the dreadfully trite ending that was being tacked on, I scribbled out "A-" and wrote "B." As with many college classes, the final really does count for a big part of this movie's grade.

It's not that the ending is a "Sixth Sense"-style twist that changes everything. It's merely an added plot detail that goes against logic and is overly sentimental. You honestly could walk out before it happens and not lose anything; in fact, I would encourage that. (Then e-mail me, and I'll tell you what happened.)

Based on a true story, "Enemy at the Gates" takes place in the fall of 1942, with Stalingrad holding out as Russia's last hope against the Nazis. Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law), a farm boy from the Urals, emerges as Russia's finest sharp-shooter, able to lie motionless for hours at a time, fixed on a target until an opportunity to strike arrives. He never misses, and he never just wounds anyone.

Russian political officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) knows that the soldiers, who are being mowed down by the Germans at an alarming rate, need someone to fix their hopes on; Vassili can be the one.

Soon Vassili is a celebrity whom peasants pray for, and the number of German officers he's killed is updated daily in the newspapers. He is, it seems, winning the war single-handedly -- or at least keeping Stalingrad out of the Nazis' hands a bit longer.

This draws the attention of the Germans, who send their best sniper, Major Konig (Ed Harris), to Stalingrad to stop him. The result is a series of duels, with each man knowing the other is somewhere nearby, waiting for his shot. Konig will hole up in a bombed-out department store while Vassili lies camouflaged in the rubble outside. Neither one breathes or moves. They wait. They try to trick each other. It is incredibly suspenseful.

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud has an unwavering eye for detail (in the action, anyway; I can't speak to the accuracy of Stalingrad geography or historical facts, both of which are irrelevant). Sunlight streams in through what used to be a factory wall, clearly marking death if Vassili or his partner (Ron Perlman) steps in front of it. Broken glass shows Vassili's reflection to Konig. Dozens of Russians are slaughtered in a percussive "Saving Private Ryan"-inspired opening sequence on the Volga River, vividly playing up the contrast between deafening mass destruction and Vassili's silent one-on-one warring. There are many point-of-view shots and close-ups that draw a viewer in without drawing attention to the director.

Then there's the unnecessary romance that almost botches the whole thing up. Tania (Rachel Weisz) is a die-hard soldier whom Danilov falls in love with. His love is unrequited, though, as she is more interested (as is the whole country) in Vassili. Vassili soon returns her affections, and next thing you know they're having discreet, silent sex while their fellow soldiers lie sleeping all around them.

Talk about your tacked-on subplots! You could literally cut out every scene with Tania and not hurt the movie; in fact, you'd help it significantly. The romance is not convincing enough to be moving. It only distracts.

Fiennes's final-moments diatribe against communism is unnecessary, too. Look, guys, just because the Russians are the good guys here doesn't mean you're promoting communism. No one was going to accuse you of that.

Law's performance is powerful, though Harris's steely-eyed (but friendly-looking) glare makes him a mite better. Fiennes, too, is good in a thankless role, and Bob Hoskins growls enjoyably as Nikita Khruschev.

When you see the words "Two Months Later" appear on the screen, be courageous and walk out. The movie will resonate more and affect you more deeply leaving things as they are.

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originally posted: 03/11/01 11:12:10
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell has its moments & some good acting 4 stars
1/02/14 Kingneutron Always a fan of Rachel Weisz- she lightened up an otherwise grim film 4 stars
11/26/07 mb Ok, but could pass on it. 3 stars
9/29/06 I-K Tepid, overwrought and loose with the truth. Josef Vilsmaier's "Stalingrad" kills it. 2 stars
9/08/06 Thomas Semesky A different look at WW2. 4 stars
3/11/06 Dillon A personal war movie, using the war as a battleground for the fight between 2 men. 5 stars
1/08/06 gerry dunne wonderfully athmospheric and entertaining 4 stars
11/27/05 Alexey American soldiers in russian uniform. Too cheesy at times. Realistic at other. 4 stars
11/16/05 Adrian It's got soul, but it's not a soldier. Needs more direction, but its good while it lasts. 4 stars
9/29/05 Fernando Lastra good picture but no so real 4 stars
8/18/05 ES Finally a War story from a different perspective, felt very authentic to the times 5 stars
2/15/05 carlei great story... 5 stars
12/29/04 Andrea Brilliant! 5 stars
12/29/04 Monks is playas too only dog so dirty to lap up turd but too lazy to lick itself 1 stars
8/03/04 Anthony G this girl should be teabaged cuz she fucking stupid, this movie is sick 4 stars
7/26/04 You don't care This movie is one of my favorites because it's WWII and it's sniper vs sniper 5 stars
6/07/04 This girl A pointless turd of a movie that despite its occasional good elements, is still a turd. 1 stars
1/13/04 mmww See it, it is close to reality of the shit of war 5 stars
11/28/03 Kateryna Hrechko Such a Wonderful movie! 5 stars
11/14/03 snowconehead Very underrated epic scenes; unnecessary love story 4 stars
11/07/03 Capt' Fox Great war movie, realistic, great acting, worth time & $ to rent. Ignore romance crap. 5 stars
10/19/03 Julreub Polished, slick and rough all at once, not bad! 4 stars
9/28/03 Kyle I like Jude Law 4 stars
8/11/03 Nicole Completely agree about the unnecessary romance 3 stars
8/11/03 francis curiously uninvolving. unnecessary romance. 3 stars
7/04/03 Jim Leaves little doubt who the better sniper is, and it's not the one who wins. 4 stars
4/07/03 Jack Sommersby Awesome physcial scale but very little emotional depth. Contrived out the ying-yang. 2 stars
3/17/03 elizaveta good depiction of a side of ww2 that we don't often see. ignore the cheesy romance... 4 stars
2/07/03 123 good movie with out-of-placed romance 4 stars
11/10/02 Stevo Tedious and irritating. Sunset Beach-quality script. Annoying acting. 2 stars
8/12/02 GOOD its ok, but no saving private ryan 4 stars
7/01/02 Natalie Stonecipher Poignant. Bob Hoskins playing Nikita Krushchev especially outstanding. 4 stars
4/08/02 stoolie-bird boring....a waste of my time 2 stars
4/06/02 Junshi I didn't choose to watch this, but it isn't boring for sure, not jump-start exciting 4 stars
2/12/02 Yourm Ama the movie was good i enjoyed it 4 stars
2/09/02 Alex Pydd Great war movie, not the conventional tanks-planes-explosions bs, rent it! 5 stars
12/18/01 Martin grows tiresome! 3 stars
10/16/01 MaMaFaC KICKS ASS 5 stars
10/14/01 R.W. Welch Harris manages to save this flick but it's a close call. 4 stars
9/30/01 phil m. afficiando I'd have paid double to see it as a documentary, leaving out the crappola and sappiness. 3 stars
8/22/01 eruch realistic war scenes -- rest mostly crap 4 stars
8/22/01 Jim Renwick Only an OK war flick but looked good. Wait for the video. 4 stars
8/21/01 Monday Morning Romance had no place here. Fucking & fighting don't mix well in movies. 3 stars
8/20/01 Hawkeye A few story gaps, but over all a really nice film. Kept my attention right through! 4 stars
8/01/01 Al Primon Excellent. Hitchcock like suspense and opening sequence equal to that in S P Ryan. 5 stars
7/28/01 Steve Very gripping movie about a different part of WW2. Great insight into the trials of heroism 5 stars
6/26/01 Natasha Fox Depicts shocking realism and is of enormous social value 5 stars
6/15/01 zombie could have been great, but the love story fucked everything up 2 stars
6/10/01 Ramsey Could've been better! Ending needed work! 4 stars
5/30/01 Bud A tough no nonsense look at war. Severe well acted. I am glad that I saw it. 4 stars
5/07/01 Suzz good WW2 film 4 stars
5/03/01 Bueller Good movie. I liked it. But do we really need another movie that shows us "War is Hell"? 4 stars
5/02/01 SharPShooteR_12 One of the coolest movies out there.....Had some flaws, but it was wicked! 5 stars
5/01/01 Joey Great movie... one to get on DVD. 5 stars
4/26/01 y2mckay No Private Ryan, but good bullet-to-the-head action. Rachel Weisz is grimy and GORGEOUS. 4 stars
4/24/01 hairy cock lick my balls! 5 stars
4/23/01 goerge very fucking cool 5 stars
4/20/01 Jimmy Clendennen Awesome! 5 stars
4/18/01 Grey Great movie, Loved the bombing scene, Earthshaking!!! 5 stars
4/16/01 studmaster This movie should be called Enema on the Gates! 1 stars
4/13/01 Alexandre Pappamikail Awesome first 15m; it seems he wins the battle alone... over 1 million russians died!!! 4 stars
4/12/01 WWII Guy Incredibly inaccurate historically, but worth seeing. 4 stars
4/11/01 Gremlin Awesome sniper movie, loved seeing the Eastern front for once 5 stars
4/08/01 Joe W. Mendoza Thought the movie awsome as well as riviting & better than Saving Private Ryan. 5 stars
4/08/01 Gary Embrey Rather a bad film. As a historian of WW2 I was very disappointed! 2 stars
4/08/01 Andrew Deikun The action sequences are good, the middle part of the movie drags 3 stars
4/03/01 kohawk The most bizarre, disgusting sex scene I've ever seen. Too long, not plausible 3 stars
4/02/01 CBSAND Hard to know who to root for. The evil Germans or the even worse Soviets. 4 stars
4/01/01 Dmitriy Mestetskiy the best 5 stars
4/01/01 Viccy Powerful visuals (Jude Law included!) bit overlong, but worth it 5 stars
3/30/01 The Reviewer some great performances -ed harris. ending does suck though. 5 stars
3/29/01 Wolvie Snipers Rule!!!! 4 stars
3/29/01 chris dirty and all, jude law was hot!!! 4 stars
3/26/01 Mike Smith No consistency 2 stars
3/24/01 Paul Like Saving Private Ryan, starts off with a wallop! Never quite regains momentum after. 4 stars
3/23/01 JB If the whole movie was a show down in the wasteland it would be great. A horrible ending. 3 stars
3/22/01 guyguy this is gay 1 stars
3/21/01 Andrew Ratliff Not bad. 4 stars
3/20/01 Matthew Bartley Characters a bit cardboard but v.suspenseful with some amazing visuals 4 stars
3/19/01 Will Wouldn't have been that bad, if only there was no silly crap romance. Tsk, tsk. 3 stars
3/18/01 joe not really suspensful, but you still pay attention 4 stars
3/18/01 Weird Andy Lame! Check out the German flick "Stalingrad" instead. 2 stars
3/16/01 TheRock No suspense, bad acting, terrible ending = sucks 1 stars
3/13/01 TimmyP A Saving Private Ryan wannabe that falls apart 2 stars
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  16-Mar-2001 (R)


  26-Jul-2001 (M)

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