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Enemy at the Gates

Enemy at the Gates
Historical War Drama / English / 2001

I was reminded of it in a recent critique of Battlefield V I rewatched. The criticism followed that instead of inventing nonsensical war scenarios just to insert playable female protagonists into these settings, game developers could and should draw from actual history, such as Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Focusing on legendary World War II snipers has already made for successful movies, such as Enemy at the Gates.

"The essence of class struggle."

I don't know if it's simply that I haven't watched any war movies in a long time, but the first 30 minutes of Enemy at the Gates is great and I think I can only attribute it to the intensity these films bring out. While movies like The Hurt Locker do a fantastic job of conveying high-risk intensity, it mainly comes out of the premise of bomb disposal, apart from that, the setting of American modern warfare is relatively sterile. Not only are the weapons scaled up into killing more enemies at further distances, but culturally, the concept of wartime is quite apart. Now you can usually be discharged for all manner of reasons, whereas in the setting of Enemy at the Gates, you may very well find yourself conscripted into the lunatic Communist army of Stalin and forced to run headlong into your death at the point of a gun.

Before we ever see the battlefield, the reactions of soldiers reluctant to depart the train they arrived in telegraphs just how miserable a situation they're getting into which is only reaffirmed when our hero learns that only half the soldiers are even getting guns and the ones that do are more or less expected to die.

With the inclusion of older slower weaponry, the concept of a drawn out sniperfight between two marksmen dug into the landscape and using every element of the environment to their advantage is excellent. Before a third of the way through the movie though, I was beginning to lose interest though.

The applauded sniperfight actually takes place throughout the majority of the movie across multiple encounters. Most of the encounters are great, but the ending honestly felt abrupt. Up until then we really don't see Bad Sniper Guy just walking around in the open, we've constantly had to assume that he sneaks away off camera between bouts, but of course the one time he pokes his head out he eats a bullet in the face, and this is after he's foiled multiple fakeouts by Main Guy. Not big on that.

A subplot surrounding Main Guy's apparent friend Jewish Guy starts with propagandizing his exploits in the field. The "tell don't show" rule is in full effect here and it's about at this point I knew the movie was beginning to wane on me. Jewish Guy also serves as a third wheel to Main Guy's overnight romance with Main Girl who only becomes relevant halfway through the movie. Again the audience is informed that they have a romantic relationship offscreen before anything of the sort is conveyed onscreen, and when they DO decide to show it onscreen, it's a wildly inappropriate drawn out sex sequence in which Main Guy uses his sniper stealth to conceal the fact that he's having sex. It's funny in a bad way; I don't know how self-aware the creators were when they decided to do that scene. If it was intentional, it was stupid, if it was unintentional, it was stupid.

Jewish Guy catching this affection offhand and deciding to turn his propaganda around into a scathing indictment of Main Guy to such an extent that we'd expect Main Guy to be arrested and executed on this information, seems like it would be a big turning point in the movie, but it's never resolved and seems more like a big intake of breath they want to knock out of you when they kill off Main Girl, which gets absolutely no emotion out of me cause she's a useless romantic interest.

This drives Jewish Guy to suicide on Bad Sniper Guy to close out the movie, but SIKE Main Girl's not dead and the two hook up, what a waste of a character arc.

Ed Harris does a good job of playing Bad Sniper Guy, he's great at exuding presence in the scenes he's in. It seems only appropriate for him to hang Stupid Kid offscreen as bait for Main Guy too cause Stupid Kid was getting on my nerves with his double agent dumbassery.

You would think that if Stupid Kid is regularly interacting with both of these legendary opposing snipers on what seems like a daily basis that one or the other would stop trying to get information on the other's military schedule and just hide in the kid's closet or something and shoot the other when they come to visit. I don't know why this simple and decisive strategy never occurred to either of them.

Also I was disappointed to hear almost no Russian accents throughout the entire movie. I'll compromise on them speaking English for the sake of the movie, but give me HYEAVY RHOUSHIN ACKSCENT COHMRRAD.

Overall, it makes me want to match more war movies, which is a positive in my book.

It also makes me want a movie about Nikita Khrushchev, who despite being played by a fun actor and being a really interesting figure in history, has very little show in this movie.

Final Verdict: