enemy at the gates full movie

The Franco-American film, Enemy at the Gates, recreated those events and remains probably the best-known movie about the battle. Aug 18, 2011 - Enemy at the Gates: Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. See the seller's listing for full details and description of any imperfections. Check out our enemy at the gates selection for the very best in unique or custom, handmade pieces from our shops.
enemy at the gates full movie
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enemy at the gates full movie

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Enemy at the gates full movie

As always, I enjoy a World War II film. Growing up, while many other kids liked westerns, I liked WWII flicks and TV shows better. Ever watch Vic Morrow in “Combat!” – with the exclamation point a bayonet? However, very few WWII films feature war on the Eastern Front, where Nazi Germany battled Communist Russia. As one novelist put it, Russia was where the biggest, most devastating battles happened (the largest tank battle to this day was fought at and around Kursk in 1943), and the first defeat of Hitler’s armies was at Stalingrad. “Enemy at the Gates” is very detailed film about a legendary Russian sniper who made his mark in the ruins of the city named for the murderous Soviet despot.

‘Enemy at the Gates’
(2001; 131 minutes; rated R; directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Jude Law, Ed Harris and Joseph Finnes)

A VERY PERSONAL BATTLE IN A WORLD WAR

(NOTE:I updated this review on Jan. 11, 2016, with expanded opinion – not changing any of the original comments – and fixing some typos and updating links. I again expanded the review with more opinion and trivia and again updating links on July 16, 2018.)

The Russian front of World War II isn’t exactly fertile ground for movies. Legendary director Sam Peckinpah chose it for his only WWII film “Cross of Iron” (click here for my review) but compared to the war in Europe or even the Pacific, the war in the east hasn’t gotten the attention from filmmakers that it deserves. German filmmakers, of course, have explored it (try “Stalingrad” from 1993 or more recently the same-named “Stalingrad” from 2013), but very few in Hollywood.

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So, today I’ll look at what in my cinematic viewing is the best Russian front film: “Enemy at the Gates.” It is a very good WWII film about a sniper duel during the pivotal battle of Stalingrad that began in the fall of 1942 and ended in early 1943 with the crushing defeat Germany’s powerful Sixth Army by Russian forces. During the battle, Russian snipers became famous as both a military arm and psychological weapon of war.

In a very interesting and effective turn, Jude Law plays “Vassili Zaitsev,” the Russian sniper who makes a name for himself through combat as well as public relations that is guided by a political officer named “Danilov” and played by Joseph Finnes. The Russians, who throw soldiers into enemy machine gun fire then kill their own soldiers who retreat, need a hero in this desperate battle and Law becomes the face of the hero. From the German side, you get Ed Harris playing “Maj. König,” who is the cold, flinty-eyed opponent in the sniper duel.

Here’s my look at some of the cast – and most have the names Oscar, Golden Globe or Emmy in some way attached to their careers …

  • A two-time Oscar nominee (not for this one), Law is obviously a very good actor and his youthful exuberance is perfect here the balance of a cold-blooded sniper who’s also somewhat naïve and emotional. Law is perfectly cast here manages to switch emotions smoothly. He has also been in “Sherlock Holmes” and received one nomination for “Cold Mountain” and the enemy at the gates full movie for “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” I also liked him in “Spy” with Melissa McCarthy (click here for my review) and he was in “The Road to Perdition” with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman.
  • A four-time Oscar nominee (not for this one), the always wonderful and exceptionally competent Ed Harris plays “Maj. König.” Harris, most familiar from his space-themed turns in “The Right Stuff” (click here for my review) and “Apollo 13” (one nomination), is another wonderful casting decision as he plays the ice-cold German marksman with restrained panache. Harris conveys the character’s intelligence as well as cruelty with ease. Harris has also done excellent work in “The Firm,” the absolutely forgotten “Milk Money” (an especially nice turn as a naïve widower) and “Glengarry Glen Ross.” However, I best like his dark work in “A History of Violence” (click here for my review). He was also nominated for “The Hours,” “Pollock” and “The Truman Show.”
  • The love interest here is Oscar winner (not for this one) Rachel Weisz, who plays “Tania.” Weisz is a volunteer who first winds up in Russian communications and then as a sniper under Law’s supervision. They wind up lovers and that complicates things on many levels. As in her work in “Runaway Jury” (click here for my review). Weisz does a good job but doesn’t make this a stand-out role in her career. She has also been in “The Mummy” and won her Oscar for “The Constant Gardener” co-starring with Finnes’ brother Ralph.
  • Speaking of Primetime Emmy nominee Finnes, the best true acting here comes from him. As the political officer elevates Law to hero status for public relations, he also becomes enamored of Weisz and ultimately winds up a doomed character (like so many here). Finnes, who appears to be more at home in Elizabethan themes, has the tough job of conveying nationalistic fervor as well as a human side and he gives an acting clinic on how to do it. He has also been in “Shakespeare in Love” and “Elizabeth” as well as “The Great Raid.” He was nominated for “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Finally, two other supporting actors do really solid work here:

  • Oscar nominee (not for this one) Bob Hoskins is no “Roger Rabbit” as he plays “Nikita Krushchev” (the real-life aide to Stalin and threatening political presence to Russian commanders at the battle and later to become leader of the Soviet Union). Hoskins is very convincing as the blustering, no-nonsense political lackey with blood on his hands, ice in his veins and no humanity in his soul (the perfect Soviet leader-to-be). The versatile Hoskins has also been in “Brazil,” “Maid in Manhattan” and “A Prayer for the Dying” (click here for my review). His nomination was best bank for small business in georgia “Mona Lisa.” Hoskins died at 71 in 2014 of pneumonia.
  • The very busy (238 credits in his career by mid-2018) and Golden Globe winner (not for this one) Ron Perlman, who is probably best known as “Hellboy” and from TV’s “Sons of Anarchy,” matches any of best performances here as “Kulikov,” another Russian sniper who teams up with Law because he once studied under Harris in more peaceful times when the Nazis and the Soviets were actually allies. Perlman is very good in this small role in both acting and is physical presence. He won his Globe for TV’s “Beauty and the Beast” in 1987.

While there’s no fanatical detail to historical accuracy here (outside of the duel took place in Stalingrad and that the Russians won, very little except the combat scenes has any form of what really happened between the men), “Enemy at the Gates” does an outstanding job of showing the grimy grittiness of the combat. The opening scene where Law meets Finnes and the two are covered in black mud after frose bar primi in a pile of bodies while Germans machinegun the corpses is particularly powerful and the recreation of the rubble of the city and the brief scene of air attacks is commendable in a film that could have been purely character-driven.

A moment about the source material for “Enemy at the Gates:”

It is “loosely” based on the exceptional non-fiction book by William Craig called “Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad.” “Loosely,” I say, because only and handful of approximately 1,000 pages are devoted to Zaitsev and his duel with the German sniper, plus that many facts have been synthesized and flat-out changed for cinematic presentation. However, one novel from 1999 (“The War of the Rats” by David L. Robbins) appears to be the real blueprint from which the film was taken. Zaitsev wrote his own version but it has not been widely distributed.

Truth about the two actual men remains in dispute. There is an entry on the IMDb.com trivia page that says there is no historical evidence of Harris’ character. Not true, as Craig’s extensively researched book mentions the German sniper coming to Stalingrad. So, it just goes to show you have to be careful about what you believe when you read an internet site.

Of course, Hollywood cannot appreciate a truly good story: in real life Zaitsev (whose name is spelled differently according to differing sources) didn’t find “Tania” after the battle. According to Craig’s book, she loved him but believed him dead and only as the historian interviewed the two in the late 1960s found out that he was alive and living 100 miles away (remember, people didn’t travel or move much in the former Soviet Union). Too bad that the true story is much better than the contrived, saccharine ending here. The German sniper’s identity has also been questioned as it appears as both König (with and without an “s”) and as “Heinz Thorvald” (as it appears in “The War of the Rats”).

“Enemy at the Gates” was the 50th ranked film at the U.S. box office in 2001, with $51.4 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Worldwide, “Enemy at the Gates” took in $96.9 million at the box office on a budget of $60 million, according to Wiki. In that year of tragedy for the U.S., the top two films were fantasy: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” ($317.5 million) and “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” ($313.3 million). However, I will note that “Enemy at the Gates” was better than “Zoolander” (55th) and the extremely gory “Thir13en Ghosts” (57th). My favorite top 10 film was “Jurassic Park III” (click here for my review) in ninth place with $181.1 million. Here are the three other films from 2001 that I’ve reviewed:

Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Since this is a film essentially about a duel, there isn’t much depth of “names” in the supporting cast, which is large and made up of actors unfamiliar to U.S. audiences. A check of the cast list on IMDb.com shows this fact.
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “The film was poorly received at Berlin festival. The German-Russian writer Wladimir Kaminer who played an extra in the film, criticizes how the Soviet soldiers are portrayed in the film.”
  • The movie set showing Stalingrad was built in Germany.
  • Finnes was the first actor cast for the film.
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “Apart from Ron Perlman’s ‘English Accent’… all characters use their normal speaking voices without modifying or mangling them for their characters’ country of enemy at the gates full movie. For example, Ed Harris plays an Aristocratic German/Prussian Officer but he speaks in a normal American accent as he is an American actor. There isn’t the ‘Germanized’ English that you see in so many war movies.”
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “At the time of its release, this was the biggest budget British movie ever made.”

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