3.Avatar Review
     A Review of Poetry, Prose, and Art - Summer 2001

Enemy at the Gates

Lori Anne VanDaele

Enemy at the Gates recounts the Russian attempt to prevent the Nazis from taking Stalingrad and thus getting a clear path to the oil fields of the Black Sea. The film starts out with a bang (several thousand of them actually) as we see the approach to the bomb-ravaged city and the apparent impossibility of the Russian cause. Once the boats land, one gun is handed out for every two soldiers, with the odd man being told he will get the gun when his companion is killed. Unfortunately, this is often at the hands of their own comrades, as anyone who deserts or retreats from battle is shot. Especially affecting is a panoramic view of the ruined city with one building tumbling down to the ground in a corner of the shot. Unfortunately, this shot is emblematic of what happens to the film.

After this opening battle, a young sniper from the Urals, Vassili (Jude Law), kills five German soldiers while trapped in the middle of a square with dozens of dead Russian soldiers and a still-living political officer, Danilov. (Joseph Fiennes). Danilov is amazed by this. He gets Vassili promoted to the sniper division and makes him the focus of a morale-boosting campaign. Vassili thus becomes a national hero and the target of Konig (Ed Harris), an ace German sniper sent from Germany specifically to kill him.

The action of the film is completely predictable. The characters are all two-dimensional caricatures. The “dead meat” are all killed on cue. The “mano-a-mano” cat-and-mouse game between the two snipers is boring. The relationships, especially between Vassili and Danilov, are never really developed. Jude Law does what may well be the worst acting of his career. He seemed completely passionless most of the time, both in the pointless love affair subplot and as a sniper. If you must see this film, wait for the video.





© Copyright 2004 Avatar Review.