Movie of the Day – Enemy at the Gates

Like any red blooded American, war movies are a main staple in your movie watching experiences.  Sure the grand opus of war is often bloody and a spectacle to behold, but for me, it’s when a movie chooses to focus on the tense hunt of tracking down the enemy and taking them out.  I enjoy war movies, but often times it is chaotic and hard to focus on a singular person.  What appealed to me about this movie is that the focus is on a sniper battle.  The often unseen trigger man on the battle field that sees who they kill, rather than a soldier just spraying bullets down the battlefield.  Enemy at the Gates is a very tightly paced movie (except for that stupid love story, which I will get to) and more of a character study about two men who are locked in combat with one another.  It is more about the brains rather than the brawn in this particular combat.

The film stars Jude Law as Vassili, a marksman from the Urals who is transported to Stalingrad in 1942, and a master German sniper, Major Koenig (Ed Harris). Koenig, an expert German sniper, is determined to eliminate his formidable opponent by any means necessary; meanwhile, Vassili has joined forces with Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), a young Russian political adversary, who is impressed by Vassili’s skills and raises his profile in the Soviet Union. Both Vassili and Danilov become involved with Tanya (Rachel Weisz), whose Jewish parents have been captured by the Germans and have forced her to take up with the men on a sniper expedition. Koenig and Vassili begin to develop traps for each other, until fate inevitably must bring the two sharpshooters together.  ~ Jason Clark, Rovi

What the film does best is the total focus on the two best sharpshooters in the warring armies.  The tense and methodical way in which both shooters hunt and set traps for one another has a certain rhythm to it.  Often times the long, uninterrupted periods of silence and waiting can become dull and boring, but the given the situations of war and the holding of one’s breath right before they pull the trigger kind of puts you on edge.  The act of hunting another man on the battlefield offers up several key moments of brilliance.  The way they have to out think one another in order to gain the upper hand puts the film into the psychological category.  When you are evenly matched, the only thing you can do is plan and wait.  This is what the film does best, slow burn to the big finish with the sniper duels.

What doesn’t work for the movie is this attached love story that stops a lot of progression in the movie.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy watching Rachel Weisz on screen at any opportunity, but this love story was not necessary.  I get what they were trying to do and make it seem like Vassili has something more at stake than just the war.  This love story just puts the brakes on tight sniper battles so the two love birds can share a little screen time.  I am not against a love story at all in movies, just against the one that detract from the story.

Enemy at the Gates is really just a cliche war movie.  Sorry to say that, but it doesn’t really offer anything new to the genre that we have already seen in terms of the hoo-rah battles and cultural nationalism.  It really pumps up the under dog Russians at every turn, but then again when the film uses Vassili as a national hero and symbol for civil disobedience, you can expect a bit more chest thumping than usual.  The love story just isn’t needed, but the saving grace is Jude Law and Ed Harris in sharpshooter match.  Their scenes are intense to watch, while slow in pace a bit, but it is about who is the better hunter.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

One Response to Movie of the Day – Enemy at the Gates

  1. Earle says:

    There’s certainly a lot to learn about this topic. I like all the points you made.

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