Enemy at the Gates Review
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In 1942, as the German army storms its way through Europe, just one city remains to be taken before the Nazis can capture the oil fields in Asia: Stalingrad. As the battle for Stalingrad rages on, more and more Russian soldiers begin to desert. One officer, Commisar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), suggests that what the Russians really need is hope—and, even more importantly, a hero.

Danilov’s hero is Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law), a peasant with incredible skill as a sniper. As Danilov spreads the word of the young sniper’s triumph over the Nazis, the Red Army begins to rally. So, in response, the Nazis call in Major König (Ed Harris), an accomplished sniper whose only mission is to track Vassili and kill him.

As the battles continue around them, the two soldiers—the young Russian peasant and the experienced German officer—are caught up in a lengthy two-man duel that could determine the city’s future. And, at the same time, the Russian and his closest friend are caught up in a duel of their own.

Based on a true story, Enemy at the Gates isn’t the typical war movie—because, although it takes place during the war, the story itself isn’t really about the historic battle to control Stalingrad. Instead, despite its large-scale setting, it’s a small-scale story about two very different men who’ve never met but who’ve been forced to become the bitterest of enemies. And while it still has some of the action and adventure that you’d expect from a war movie, it’s not as action-packed as it is tense and suspenseful. As the two snipers track each other down, day after day—silently, motionlessly waiting for the perfect moment to strike—you’ll hold your breath along with them, waiting to see how the stand-off will end.

Similarly, the story isn’t as action-driven as it is character-driven. It’s a simple but fascinating sketch of an unlikely hero who’s caught in the middle of two battles: one for his country and the other for love. To pull off a film like this one, it takes a talented cast. Fortunately, Enemy at the Gates has just that—from Law and Harris to Rachel Weisz, who’s utterly captivating as Tania, an educated young woman who shows up for battle.

Enemy at the Gates is a heavy but moving war drama—an intriguing character sketch that’s marked by solid performances, gripping suspense, and striking set pieces. And while it may not be filled with surprises, it’s a powerful film nonetheless.

Blu-ray Review:
Extras on the Enemy at the Gates Blu-ray release include two making-of features that could easily have been made into one single feature—because they pretty much cover the same topics. Still, these two features offer a closer look at various aspects of the film—from the real-life history to behind-the-scenes stuff like casting, training, and the building of those spectacular sets. The second of the two features, Inside Enemy at the Gates, includes more cast interviews, in which the actors discuss (among other things) their favorite scenes.

Since both of these features offer some interesting insights into the story and the filmmaking process—and they’re also relatively short (around 15-20 minutes)—they’re worth checking out. So if you have a few minutes to spare after watching the feature, be sure to give them a look.

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