ENEMY AT THE GATES is the true story of WWII Russian sharpshooter Vassili Zaitsev (Law) who finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse with Major Koenig (Harris), his German counterpart.
Zaitsev learned the way of the gun at a young age and finds himself putting his skills to the test at the Battle of Stalingrad. Despite years of training, nothing could prepare this country boy for the chaos, death, and destruction that slaps him in the face as he steps off the boat at Stalingrad. Any thoughts of deserting are quickly dismissed as he learns the price to pay for such an act is death by Russian bullet.
Within minutes of his arrival, Zaitsev and his fellow men are thrust into battle with the Nazis. The Russians as pummeled, but Zaitsev survives the attack, killing prominent Nazi officers in the process. His efforts do not go unnoticed as Russian party official Danilov (Fiennes) bears witness to the killings.
Danilov knows the Russians are discouraged by their losses and sees opportunity in Zaitsev. Almost overnight, Danilov elevates Zaitsev to hero status by publishing the news of his killings for all to read. The Russians find the hope they need in this hero, but Zaitsevís fame comes at a price. The Nazis see Zaitsevís destruction as the symbolic destruction of their party. In retaliation, they send their best man, Major Koenig, to do battle with Zaitsev.
ENEMY AT THE GATES grabs the audience during the first scene and doesnít loosen its grip until the credits roll. It offers viewers an intense, in-your-face look at the horrors of war. And there are horrors aplenty. However, there is more to the story than bullets and blood. Annaud shows how friendships can form and how love can bloom in such desperate times. He does a great job of bringing the audience in and making them emotionally involved. If I had one complaint it would be that the cat and mouse game seemed to last a bit too long, making me anxious just to see someone win. With other big budget war films out these days I find it hard to make comparisons, but ENEMY AT THE GATES definitely holds its own.