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Afterwards, my sister said to me, "We're the best customers Denny’s has, I think it knows us." Yet another randomness thrown into the cold night air. Had I'd known the night would end like this, I would've prepared my cranium before leaving the house for the many mental incongruencies hurling toward me.

Having the movie, "Enemy at the Gates", leek into my eyes was a first step in a staircase of unorganized ideas leading to dinner at Denny’s. I had hoped for another episode of the "war movie" genre, but alas, much like a horny U.S. serviceman stationed in the Philippines, I received not only the aspired to, but a little "bonus gift" as well.

The blood, guts and violence were all well and good, but director Jean-Jacques Annaud, wanted a little more than just the visceral aforementioned. He wanted a movie with broad consumer appeal, a real movie for the masses. However, he didn’t want to flesh out his modular audience-appeal themes, he left them there unwove and dangling, hoping to be the golden braid of WWII topics they were intended to be. Here’s a quick dirty laundry list of some of the quasi-developed macramés encountered in “Enemy”.

If the storyline had just adhered to one or two abstract themes, the flick could’ve pulled off a 3.0 GPA. Unfortunately, thematic development was as strong as a week-old fart. At least the “All-American slam” was good at Denny’s.

I'll admit, I enjoyed this movie. It was one of the first war movies I had seen that focused primarily on snipers, which I thought was quite an interesting take on things. Great visuals, and an intriguing plot.

However, the movie was not perfect. It seemed to be especially lacking in character development. We know that the main character has been shooting things since he was a little kid, and that he came from a poor family. We know that the main antagonist is apparently famous in Germany for his sharp shooting. We know a few other details about the other characters; for instance, the protagonist's friend is more suited to desk jobs and can tend to be a backstabber, and we learn some of the main love interest's history.

But there are some major questions left unanswered, that left me not knowing how to feel about some of the characters. Especially lacking are the two main character's viewpoints on the politics they represent. Is the protagonist really a Communist? Does he truly believe in his cause, or is he merely trying to defeat the Nazis? By the same token, is the antagonist a Nazi. Remember, there is a difference between being merely a German soldier and being a hardcore Nazi. Many German soldiers were only fighting because they had no choice. For me at least, the fact that he was wearing a German uniform was not enough to make me hate him; whereas if I knew he was a true believer in the Nazi cause, that would be plenty of reason for me to hate him.

All in all, I walked away thinking it was a good flick. These few problems I've pointed out did not keep me from enjoying the movie, although I do think they should have been taken care of. Omissions like these are what (IMHO) make the difference between a good movie and a great film.

Enemy at the Gates

A Reperage production presented by Mandalay and Paramount Pictures

Written by Alain Godard and Jean Jacques Annud
Directed and Produced by Jean Jacques Annud
Starring:

    Jude Law (Vassili Zietsev)
    Ed Harris (Major Konig)
    Joseph Fiennes (Danilov)
    Bob Hoskins (Kruschev)
    Rachel Wiesz (Tania)

Plot synopsis (Possible spoiler, you may want to turn back if you have not seen the movie):

While the Nazis and Russians are fighting on the Eastern front in 1942, sniper Vassili Zietsev grows in popularity with the Russian citizens by nailing target after target "reporting" as many as 50 kills in a week, as Danilov tells the masses in the Russian newspapers.

The Germans hear of Vassili and send their best sharpshooter, Major Konig, after him. The movie revolves around Konig's hunt for Vassili and their personal war while the rest of World War II goes on around them.

(love story spoiler) Vassili meets Tania, a female soldier in the Russian army. Conflict between Danilov and Vassili grows when they both fall in love with Tania.

I won't be a bastard by spoiling the ending, go watch the movie :)

Review:

I was very pleased with this film as it was historically accurate... for the most part. I can't say much without revealing key movie points, so I'll just say there are a few mistakes in the battles between Konig and Zietsev. As mentioned above by Derby, there was a little bit of fairy tale warfare added. Otherwise, this was a relatively accurate depiction of World War II from the snipers' POV. The camera work is beautiful and artistic and the weaponry (and use of weaponry) is surprisingly accurate. Even the Russian mentality of deserters not deserving to live is shown in (SPOILER) the first scene when runners are gunned down by a higher ranked officer from their own side with a very cool machine gun (the make of which I do not recall).

All in all, well presented, great story, and worth seeing/buying.

Rating: ****1/2 (1/2 deducted for unnecesary slight historical innacuracies)

Here is an analysis of the book: Enemy at the Gates by William Craig (was written before the movie)

This was an amazing book. It opened my eyes to the horrors of the battle at Stalingrad. It was well written and went in great depth as to the conditions of the fight. At the beginning of the battle, the Germans had a severe edge. Although having heavy casualties pushing east towards Moscow, the Nazis continued to march over the steppes. Stalingrad was a heavily industrialized city and very important to the Soviet war machine. It didn’t seem like the place where the fate of a war would be determined, but quickly the world watched and realized that it would. The Germans were pounding the Russians with their Blitzkrieg tactics up until Stalingrad. There, the leaders at Moscow knew that if Stalingrad fell, then Russia would be lost. For that reason, when it appeared that the Nazis would overrun Stalingrad, they through the youth of their nation across the Volga and hoped for the best.

At a time, it only seemed like the Soviets could hold their tiny piece of the city for a few days more. The stalemate eventually wore at the Germans and they started taking heavier casualties. One element that added to their demise was their supply lines being stretched out so far. As the Russian winter set in, it appeared as though the Germans might not take Stalingrad. The Russians fought valiantly, although they took immense losses, both civilian and military. Hitler continued to demand the taking of the city, but the 6th Army just couldn’t gain the last foothold held by the Soviets. The Germans were not prepared for the Russian winter as it quickly became colder and snow began to pile up. Later in the winter, the Russians performed a classic surrounding maneuver by breaking through the weak flanks of the 6th Army consisting of Italian regulars and other less powerful groups. They took the Nazis completely by surprise and held them at bay inside a wide circle. The Germans were taking heavy losses and it appeared as though the 6th Army might never leave Stalingrad.

Goering, a high commander who sought to reconcile his reputation, decided to take action when he heard Hitler and his adjutants talking of the impossibility of supplying the entire surrounded army by air. Georing’s reputation was recently tarnished after a blunder in decision making and a high loss of men. Goering proudly claimed he could supply the army, which affected the final outcome of the battle. The reason of this is, it gave Hitler an out so to speak, when other generals urged him to let the 6th Army retreat to a more defensive position outside of the encirclement. Hitler refused to let the army leave and “give up what they had been fighting for the last year.”

When Goering tried to airlift supplies, he found the weather wreaking havoc on the planes. Russian anti-aircraft batteries also shot down a high number. Although the Army required 700 tons a day to survive, they received at the most 200 a day, and sometimes none at all. Paulus, the leader of the 6th Army, urged all who would listen to give the order for a retreat. After a failed attempt to rescue the Army by Von Manstein and his tank corps., Paulus continued to beg for the order. Hitler balked, however and gave up too much time to order a withdraw when he finally issued one. Between these times, the conditions inside the encirclement worsened. In extreme cases, soldiers would resort to cannibalism in order to stay alive. Many thousands starved while thousands of others were killed by the constant onslaught by the Russians. The battle raged for weeks until the terrible loss of men compelled a surrender by the remnants of the 6th Army. In the end, it seemed as though they could have broken out at the early stage of the battle, but Hitler’s horrible battle plans wrote up the fate of a quarter of a million men. This started the fall of the 3rd Reich, and it seems that if the Nazis could have taken the city of Stalingrad before the Volga froze over and enemy reinforcements were aloud to freely cross the river, it could have been a different story.

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