Enemy At The Gates

9 out of 10


Welcome To Hell

Lice covered, starving soldiers crawl through a city of rubble, out of ammunition and hope, to kill each other like cattle in temperatures of Minus 60 degrees Celsius. No, this is no post apocalypse flick, but worse, the Battle of Stalingrad. Here, two of the most authoritarian regimes of all time, those of Hitler and Stalin, each the nemesis of the other, collided head-on. Of the best part of a MILLION or so Germans who marched in, barely 10,000 returned home alive, with one dying every 7 seconds. Meanwhile, if Russia had lost, the military would have been outflanked and caused the country to collapse.

In the middle of this death struggle, Danilov, a Political Commissar (Ralph Feines) discovers a shepherd-boy, Vasiley Zeitsev (Jude Law). A crack shot who used to kill wolves, he is seized upon by the Russians as an unlikely hero, a great hope for inspiring their troops to fall on the German bayonets even faster. Facing rejuvenation of the wilting Russian army, Hitler sends his own finest marksman, Major Konig (Ed Harris) to despatch him. And so, amongst the mass slaughter, a microcosm of the whole war is fought out between the Russian shepherd boy and the German aristocrat like some nightmare game of chess.

Gripping and compelling, the story twists and turns as the two sides use their utmost resources to misinform their man`s opponent, with Bob Hoskins as the young Krushchev, the Russian field commander, who later went on to succeed Stalin and cause the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As one of the few people who has ever seen William Craig`s original book, I vividly remember it and find it hard to believe that such suffering still was only the condensed version I discovered in an old copy of Reader`s Digest. This is not a "sanitised" Hollywood war picture, like "Saving Private Ryan", but a graphic recreation of the full horrors of war.


Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett