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Enemy at the Gates

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Enemy at the Gates

Starring: Jude Law, Ed Harris
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Rated: R
RunTime: 128 Minutes
Release Date: March 2001
Genres: Action, Drama, Romance, War

*Also starring: Ron Perlman, Gabriel Thompson, Rachel Weisz, Joseph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins, Matthias Habich, Eva Mattes

Review by Susan Granger
2 stars out of 4

Beware of any W.W.II movie in which you find yourself rooting for the murderous Nazi! Because of unfortunate casting choices, that's what happens in this otherwise impressive epic set during the bloody battle of Stalingrad in '42 and '43, the pivotal confrontation between Hitler's invading troops and the overpowered, under-equipped Russian Army. When an overwrought Nikita Krushchev (Bob Hoskins) demands a victory for Stalin, an enterprising propagandist (Joseph Fiennes) turns a young shepherd boy-turned-sniper, Vassily Zaitsev (Jude Law), into a national hero, thus changing an atmosphere of hopelessness into optimism. Vassily has a brief romance with a plucky comrade (Rachel Weisz) before an expert German marksman, Major Koenig (Ed Harris), is sent to eliminate him. Pitting the country lad from the Urals against the aristocratic nobleman is, of course, the essence of class struggle. Staging the battle sequences, director Jean-Jacques Annaud and co-writer Alain Godard lift liberally from the combat-intensity of Steven Spielberg's Normandy landing in "Saving Private Ryan," but their less-than-compelling story is further weakened by mediocre acting. Jude Law is handsome but vacuous, while Joseph Fiennes flounders in caricature. Only Ed Harris with his steely blue eyes and soft speech, smoking gold-tipped cigarettes, delivers a riveting performance. He's a cruel villain but, with the protagonists so uninteresting, his dogged persistence ignites the screen. In addition, the distracting accents of the polyglot cast are ludicrous and James Horner's blatant musical score is downright intrusive. So, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Enemy at the Gates" is a flawed 5. And, if you want to know more about this historic battle, I suggest renting "Stalingrad."

Copyright 2001 Susan Granger

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