Film Scouts Reviews

"Enemy at the Gates"

by Jonathan Robert Muirhead

The opening is slow, focusing in on Jude Law's features as he recalls hunting with his grandfather. We follow Law through war-torn Stalingrad, becoming the Russian army's best sniper, the propaganda trail and the devastating effect this has on Law. Idealistic political officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) makes Law into a folk hero. When the Germans get wind of this, they send in ice-cold, efficient, Major Konig. Ed Harris brilliantly shows us how much becoming the Nazi's best marksman has cost him. He's forgotten how to be human and he's terrifying. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud brings across well the sense of each day being a fight for survival in an increasingly pointless war. The music is drearily predictable – horns for tense scenes, string for slow, sad ones. And why write the film in English when all props are in Russian? Unlike the tacked-on Normandy Beach Landings of Saving Private Ryan , the running battle for control of Stalingrad threads itself through the central narrative, each fight more desperate. Annaud's camera throws awkward angles, putting us right in the centre of each battle. There are some superb moments of tension, such as Fiennes and Law's first meeting, but there's too much padding between battle scenes. Bob Hoskins's Kruschev and Rachel Weisz's feisty volunteer are excellent, but they're stranded by clichés, such as Kruschev's speech about how he wants officers with balls, which undermine the natural emotion the film wants to have.

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