Sunday, 4 August 2013

Film Review: ENEMY AT THE GATES (2001)

Enemy at the Gates - poster Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Writers: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Alain Godard
Running time: 131 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Drama/History/Thriller
UK Release date: 16th March 2001

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 4th August 2013.


I saw this film quite a few years ago but really couldn’t remember much about it and so decided to give it another viewing when it came up in the listings recently. The first thing that struck me is that it is long; very very long. So having got comfortable with a good supply of snacks and drinks, I settled down for the ordeal. As it transpired, it wasn’t as painful an experience as I had expected, but it was still too long. Here’s a very brief summary before I give you my thoughts.

Enemy at the Gates - 1 When shepherd Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law) is drafted into the Soviet Army in 1942, he finds himself in the front line facing the Nazi’s at Stalingrad. Finding himself trapped after a charge on enemy lines he uses great marksmanship skills to save both himself and Commisar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), a political officer. Danilov uses Zaitsev as an example to inspire the people and as a result he becomes quite famous. He is promoted to the sniper division by the Commander of the defending forces, Nikita Khrushchev (Bob Hoskins) and all his kills are made public. This soon comes to the attention of the Germans and they bring in expert sniper, Major König (Ed Harris) to deal with Zaitsev. Thus begins a game of cat-and-mouse as the pair face off amongst the ruins of the city. Enter the love interest, Tania Chernova (Rachel Weisz), who Danilov falls in love with but who would like to be with Zaitsev. Add to this a boy, Sacha Filipov (Gabriel Thomson), who Danilov uses to get information about the whereabouts of König and that’s about all I can say. Oh, and there’s a brief appearance from Ron Perlman as Koulikov, a Russian sniper who had worked with König before the war.

Enemy at the Gates - 2 A film with some great set piece battle scenes involving hundreds of extras; it does look quite epic in places. I would have liked to have seen it on the big screen, I’m sure it was quite impressive. The music was pretty good; mainly relying on great sweeping themes throughout it did put me in mind of another epic war film set in Russia. All the performances were very good with Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Ed Harris standing out for me. It was one of those films that was good, with ambitions of being great but never quite getting there. Sadly I felt that the love triangle got in the way, a bit, of a decent war film. I say ‘sadly’ because I thought Rachel Weisz was particularly good in this one. Over all though, I found it a bit too long but still quit a decent watch.

SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED

My score: 7.3/10.

IMDb Score: 7.5/10 (based on 122,529 votes when this review was written).

MetaScore: 53/100: (Based on 33 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Enemy at the Gates - 6 Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 54/100 (based on 137 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 79/100 (based on 221,585 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

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