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Enemy at the Gates - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD / action adventure DVD / suspense thriller DVD review
ENEMY AT THE GATES Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins, Ron Perlman
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 19 May 2009 Runtime: 131 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - French, Spanish), Subtitles (English SDH, English, Spanish, French, Portugese), Through the Crosshairs, Inside Enemy at the Gates, Deleted scenes, Theatrical trailer HD

World War II was quite a popular altercation, one that can be examined from so many different angles that it may never cease to be studied. Jean-Jacques Annaud's Enemy at the Gates zooms in on the Battle of Stalingrad from the perspective of the Russian foot soldier. Jude Law stars as Vassili Zaitsev, a soldier sent into Stalingrad. He and his fellow soldiers are packed into freight cars and locked in until they arrive, expected to fly into battle or be killed as cowards by their own. Every second soldier gets a rifle; those without will try to avoid death until they can grab a fallen comrade's weapon.

Zaitsev avoids heavy German fire and takes cover in a fountain amongst the dead. Eventually he meets up with propaganda officer Commisar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) who takes cover in the same fountain. When several German officers are showering in a bombed-out building near the fountain, Danilov decides it would be prudent to pick them off.

Zaitsev suggests that he fire when other explosions can conceal the shots and takes over the shooting for Danilov. Danilov turns him into a hero when Nikita Khrushchev (Bob Hoskins) is casting about for ways to improve their fortunes. Danilov suggests a national hero would be more motivating than the threat of death from their own officers.

Danilov and Zaitsev become a team. Zaitsev is given a sniper's rifle and spends his time hunting as his grandfather showed him, while Danilov writes up his backstory and body count and turns him into a national hero. All is well until Tania Chemova (Rachel Weisz) enters the picture. An educated woman who wants to serve her country as best she can, Tania speaks several languages and is useful as a translator. This feels like an easy out to her when others are putting their lives on the line.

The extensive coverage of Zaitsev's success makes him a German target. The Germans send snipers to take him out, but they are not successful. It is just as important to the German morale to take out Zaitsev as it has been for Russian morale to have a hero. The Battle of Stalingrad was as long and arduous as it was important to both German and Russian forces. If Stalingrad fell, all of the USSR would be under German control. The Germans decide to play their ace-in-the-hole: Major König (Ed Harris), a German marksman and aristocrat. He comes after Zaitsev, but he plays the game differently from any sniper Zaitsev has encountered before. This shakes his confidence and challenges his skills as the two hunt one another.

Enemy at the Gates has much to recommend it. It is not the typical WWII drama/action film, although the love triangle tries to pull it into that mold. Vassili Zaitsev is a typical infantryman who becomes idolized by his fame when he's just doing what he can to survive. He aspires to be ordinary once all of this madness is over.

The Blu-ray edition offers an excellent picture and fabulous sound. The extra materials are sparse but decent enough: a couple of making-of featurettes, deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer in HD.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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