Before I went to see "Enemy At The Gates", I checked out the
running time. When I saw it was 134 minutes long I was pleased because I
thought it indicated that the director, Jean-Jacques Annaud ("The
Name of the Rose"), had a lot to work with.
The based-on-real life story of opposing Russian and German
snipers battling it out in World War II, seemed like my kind of tense
action flick, though I admit I was not so sure a war movie without
Americans coming to the rescue would be emotionally involving for me.
The film starts out very well, showing us one of the snipers as a child
in frigid picturesque Russia being trained by his Grandfather to hunt.
That opening scene soon leads to amazing battles scenes of the
rag tag Russian Army trying to defend Stalingrad against the Nazi war
machine. It was intense. Unfortunately it reminded me of the first half of "Saving
Private Ryan". I say
unfortunately simply because it seemed so similar to Spielberg’s work
it was distracting. But I
was enjoying it. The detail
was great, the story started off very well, and I even loved the color
which made it look like an WWII-era Technicolor film.
Then like the city under siege the movie crumbled into a heap of ruins.
There are lots of reasons this movie is bad.
The main problem seems to be editing.
After the first 15 minutes, the story was so broken up with poor
cuts, unclear scene changes, and unexplained swings in people’s
attitudes it was no fun to try to follow or figure out.
Of course it was obvious that the Russian propaganda expert
played by "Shakespeare In Love’s" Joseph Fiennes
(playing Danilov) tried to raise the morale of the Russian
soldiers and people by making a hero of Vassili Zaitsev the Russian
sharpshooter played by Jude Law. And
that the German’s countered by sending in their famous sharpshooter Ed
Harris (playing Major Konig) to hunt down Vassili.
That part of the story was OK, though it was too simplified and
reminded me of tired old gunfighter westerns plots where the home town
sheriff had to save the town from the hired gun slinger.
In fact during the climax of the film I was almost surprised not
to see them in cowboy hats.
The extra time that the director was granted in the running time, was
totally wasted on a sappy love triangle, and a little kid named Sacha
who inexplicably could easily find either sniper whenever he felt like
What else was bad? Well how
about the dialog? At one
point the girl asks the guy if he happens to survive the war what his
ultimate dream might be. He
says with a dreamy far away look “I want to work in a factory” –
give me a break. At another
point, a mother’s son is killed in service to Russia, and Danilov had
to break the bad news. For
some bizarre reason this PR expert says her son defected to the Nazis.
It appears that the logic here was that he thought Mom would feel
better believing her son betrayed her country rather than died a hero of
What else was bad? Well how
about the sniper’s tactics? OK,
maybe in that battle they just let thousands of dead people lie around
in the streets for months at a time, but how many times do the
filmmakers have to let the snipers hide amongst the dead bodies?
It was clever the first time, but then I lost count after a
What else was bad? Well
how about those accents? OK
fine, let’s assume the director decided not to bother with Russian and
German accents. I
wouldn’t mind if it were consistent.
But some people used ‘em and some didn’t. Most of the actors used some kind of English accent, but I
think Ron Perlman was doing a comic Australian and Ed Harris used his
regular American accent. The
inconsistency was distracting.
Speaking of distracting, I think Fiennes did OK, but to have him running
around reading with such pride the propaganda he had just penned like it
were some kind of work of Shakespeare, just reminded me way too much of,
well, Shakespeare. I
wouldn’t have noticed had it been any other actor, but when he was
doing it all I could see was the Bard, and it was distracting.
I have a feeling in the hands of a better editor and cut back to about
120 minutes, this could have been a good movie.
( 2 out of 4 pops )
about this film with other Popkorn Junkies