March 30, 2001

Enemy In The Script

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It’s the new war movie, and like Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line before it, Enemy at the Gates appeals to all those trying not to tax their brains so soon after the drunken haze of spring break.

The film centers around the heroic feats of farm boy turned sniper Vassily Zaitsev, played by Jude Law. We first meet Vassily on a train en route to Stalingrad, where the Russians are attempting to hold back the German invasion during World War II. Once in Stalingrad, Vassily becomes a reluctant hero to the demoralized Russian army by sharp-shooting Germans on a daily basis. However, fame has a price, as this simple country bumpkin soon finds out: the Germans send their best sniper, Major Koenig (played by Ed Harris), to Stalingrad to murder both Vassily and any hope of a Russian victory.

Thrown into this high-suspense mix is a fast friendship doomed to tragedy between Vassily and fellow soldier Danilov, played by Joseph Fiennes. The tragedy has its foundation in the standard love triangle: officer-journalist Danilov is determined to get the girl he wants, but his boring demeanor cannot compete with virile Vassily the sharp-shooter.

The performances of the actors were fabulously matched to the characters that were supposed to be played on screen, primarily due to the lack of dialogue and abundance of facial expressions necessary during a film focusing on stalking snipers. No dialogue was needed for both Jude Law and Ed Harris, as their drawn faces and actions made their mind games more than evident to the audience. Like Joseph Fiennes’ portrayal of Shakespeare, Danilov’s character includes a wealth of earnestly hopeful and lovelorn expressions. Finally, but no less fascinating is Rachel Weisz’s Tania, whose facial expressions make it unnecessary for her to speak.

Due to superior direction, the best performances are seen when the love triangle first meets. Tania enters the room to receive obviously interested looks from both Danilov and Vassily, but Tania’s face makes her interests equally obvious: she wants in on both the heroic fighting and the hero.

Even with such solid performances, the film’s plot seems to drag on for over two hours. Also, the groundwork for the inevitable love triangle is set up far too early in the movie’s running time, leaving the audience waiting impatiently for some sort of action. When the two characters finally do get together, the love story is already old, tired, and to put it quite frankly, lame.

All around, the movie is interesting, with notable acting and special effects. On the other hand, if you care more about plotline than computer generated battle scenes, it’s best to wait and let Jude Law grace your television screen.

Archived article by Katie Porch