March 20, 2001
Enemy at the Gates
by stacy <email@example.com>
I saw Enemy at the Gates last weekend. It was a matinee early on Saturday afternoon, and we arrived late and had to sit on the sides since the theater was nearly full. I didn't really know what to expect from this movie. I knew it was about the World War II battle of Stalingrad, where over a million Russians and half a million Germans died. The battle was a drawn-out affair that lasted about 6 months and ruined the city, but Stalin was determined to defend it, not for any particular strategic reason, but because it was the city with his name, and it held symbolic importance. At least to him.
The first thing that caught my eye was that almost everyone in this movie was a British actor. The main German character, a high-ranking sniper named Konig, was played by an American, but the hero, a Russian of humble beginnings named Vasilij Zaitzev, was played by Jude Law (from The Talented Mr. Ripley), the political officer who discovers him and spreads his name through wartime propaganda was played by the guy from Shakespeare in Love, and the beautiful sniper who is the love interest of both men is played by the chick from The Mummy.
The love story in this movie was a little contrived. Tania, the beautiful sniper, studied German in university and Danilov, the political officer, convinces her to work as a translator at headquarters so she'll be safe and near him. But her heart is set on Vasilij, who has become the hero of Stalingrad. In real life, Tania was just a woman who had been a soldier during the battle who survived, and when interviewed said she had loved him, along with everyone else in the Soviet Union. But in the movie, Vasilij loves her too, and he tries to dissuade her from becoming a sniper to avenge her parents' death, but he can't, so she joins him at the sniper's bunker every night. This allows them to have a nice love scene surrounded by grimy men sleeping and smoking, while they try not to be noisy and obvious about their activities under the blankets.
The movie was over 2 hours long. That's pushing the limits of my attention span, but it never dragged. Americans learn very little about the "Russian front" part of WWII, other than it killed a huge number of men on both sides and Hitler eventually lost badly. This movie, though largely gleaned from propaganda and folk-tales, is educational and interesting. Plenty of blood and guts for those who like violent war movies, too.
Published: March 20, 2001