Review: “Enemy at the Gates”

When it comes to WW2 films they’ve usually been about the big events involving either the Americans, the British, or the French. From Pearl Harbor to D-Day to the Battle of the Atlantic, most of the events are well known by most people and have usually been covered in one way or another on film or TV at least half a dozen times each.

On occasion however there’s a film that comes along that tackles or is set against a conflict which many may not have heard about, but which were just as vital and important in the war as those previous examples. “The Thin Red Line” tackled it with the Battle of Guadalcanal, now “Enemy at the Gates” takes a look at the Siege of Stalingrad – the key fight which signalled the tide turning in the war when Hitler tried and failed to invade Russia.

It’s a shame this film proves a disappointment. A great backdrop, a solid and potentially tense real life story to base it on, and talented actors can’t save the film which fails to live up to its full potential. The problem lies in the direction the story has taken – the movie is shot in a way that attempts to appeal to the widest possible audience and to cash in on the “Saving Private Ryan” dollar – that’s what is wrong with it.

There are some tense clever scenes which work with the pair trying to outdo each other, but a rather weak romantic sub-plot drags down the story despite a great performance by Weisz. Both Law & Weisz are great actors but the chemistry isn’t there where as the Law & Fiennes friendship chemistry on the other hand is much more palatable & effective.

The directing tries to give us very epic visuals and big scenic vistas but the look feels like low budget trying to be something more, when a cheaper and more ‘in your face’ style of gritty filmmaking would’ve easily made the film much better. Adding to the confusion is having English actors playing Russians and American actors as Germans, all keeping their original accents which makes things confusing as hell.

The real life characters are also sadly watered down to pretty stereotypical characters who never progress much beyond the predictable. Nevertheless it does have its moments, but proves just an ok film at best. “Pearl Harbor” looks like it’ll have no competition at all this Summer.