Enemy at the Gates
Saving Private Ryan has spawned a flood of films about the last century's greatest drama, World War II; the sprawling, inconsistent epic Enemy at the Gates revisits the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the war's greatest turning points. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet) tries to stun viewers with as grisly and wrenching an opening for Enemy as Spielberg's D-Day slaughter in Ryan. Among the jittery Russian soldiers plowing through the Germans and into the burning hulk of Stalingrad is sniper Vassili Zaitsev (the always compelling Jude Law). Zaitsev's gun prowess amazes Soviet propagandist Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), who convinces commanding officer Nikita Khrushchev (a delightfully hammy Bob Hoskins) that what the Russian army desperately needs is a hero. Between Zaitsev's sharpshooting and Danilov's spinning, the Russians are indeed inspired and the Germans riled--enough so to send their own elegant and superb marksman, Major Konig (a frighteningly cool Ed Harris), to engage Zaitsev in a private one-on-one battle. Annaud depends too much on Private Ryan-like special effects to make his battle sequences anything more than a computer game run amok. The real tension, not surprisingly, lies in the intellectual chess game between Zaitsev and Konig and how the surrounding players affect it. In between, however, lies a flat deadness that even composer James Horner's determined score can't bolster.