Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Enemy at the Gates

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Profanity:Some strong language
Nudity/Sex:Brief but fairly graphic sexual situation, brief nudity
Alcohol/Drugs:A lot of smoking, some drinking
Violence/Scariness:Very violent battle scenes, extremely tense, many deaths, characters in peril
Diversity Issues:Women are as strong and effective as the men, reference to anti-semitism
Movie Release Date:2001

It is 1942 and Stalingrad is “a city on the Volga where the fate of the world is being decided.” Hitler is trying to do what Napoleon could not and has sent his troops to invade the Soviet Union.

The Germans have enormous strength, and the Russians are overmatched. Soviet officers hand guns to every other soldier, telling them, “When the one with the rifle gets killed, the one following picks up the rifle and shoots.” The Germans establish a stronghold and the Russian soldiers are badly shaken. A new commanding officer, Nikita Krushchev (Bob Hoskins), terrorizes one of the senior officers into killing himself and asks for suggestions on how to build the morale of his soldiers. A young political officer named Danilov (Joseph Fiennes of “Shakespeare in Love”) makes a suggestion — “give them hope.” He has seen a soldier kill five Germans, each with a single shot. He urges Krushchev to “give them heroes.”

The soldier is Vassily Zaitsev (Jude Law), an uneducated boy from the Urals with an extraordinary talent for hitting his target. Danilov’s propaganda makes Zaitsev a legend. And that makes him a target for the Germans, who dispatch their own legendary sniper, Terminator-style, to go after him. When that legend arrives (Ed Harris as Major Koenig), he can research Zaitsev by reading Danilov’s circulars about Zaitsev. Danilov sees Koenig’s arrival as a chance for bigger and better propaganda. Koenig is a nobleman, so that now there is a class war to add to the story.

But everything Danilov does to make Zaitsev a hero and an asset to the Soviets makes him more vulnerable to discovery and attack by the Germans. Things get even more complicaged when Danilov and Zaitsev fall for the same girl, a tough soldier named Tania (Rachel Weisz of “The Mummy”).

This is a thinking person’s historical epic, so impressively ambitious in taking on issues and ideas that you have to cut it some slack when it does not manage them all as skillfully as it hopes to. The story of the German siege of Leningrad is worth a movie in itself. The cat and mouse game between Koenig and Zaitsev is like something out of a classic western, more much about strategy, courage, ingenuity, and patience as about sharpshooting. The issue of using one individual’s story to manipulate the masses plays out fascinatingly throughout the movie. It is reminiscent of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence’s” famous line, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” If the love triangle is the weakest part of the movie, that is only because the rest of it is so strong.

All four stars are excellent, especially Law’s guileless integrity and Harris’ variation — a sort of guile-full integrity. When the two men face off against each other, it is clear that they understand each other in a way that no one else ever can.

Parents should know that this is a very tense and violent movie, with graphic battle scenes and piles of dead bodies. Characters are in constant peril and many are killed, including a child. There is a brief but fairly explicit sexual encounter with brief nudity. The characters use strong language, drink, and smoke.

Families who see this movie should talk about the effect that fame has on people. At first, Zaitsev innocently enjoys the attention, though he never lets it go to his head. Later he says, “I can’t carry that weight any more. I want to fight as a regular soldier.” Was what Danilov did necessary? Was it fair to Zaitsev? Did it do what it was intended to? How was that similar to what the Germans did to Koenig? (Think about the scene where he turns in his dogtags)? Why did Tania chose the one she loves? Think about what it says about the real Zaitsev at the end of the movie — does the movie do to the real Zaitsev what Danilov did to the fictional one?

Families who enjoy this movie should read more about the invasion of the Soviet Union, a key turning point in WWII. Younger members of the family might like to hear what happened to the commanding officer, Nikita Krushchev, whom baby boomers may remember best for banging the table with his shoe at the U.N. Families who enjoy this movie should also see “Doctor Zhivago.”



Previous Posts

Lucy and the Box Office: The Good News and the Bad News
Last week, "Lucy" beat "Hercules" at the box office, good news for those who still think that women-led action films can't make money. As blog The Mary Sue put it succinctly: "Today In Female

posted 8:00:04am Aug. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Guardians of the Galaxy
The summer movie you've been waiting for has arrived, a joyous space romp that all but explodes off the screen with lots of action and even more charm. Our recent superheros have been complex, often anguished, even downright tortured. It has been a while since we've had a charming rogue with a ba

posted 5:59:33pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Get on Up
There are a lot of challenges in taking on the life story of James Brown, known variously as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite and others with vari

posted 5:59:21pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Magic in the Moonlight
Woody Allen's 44th film is an amuse bouche without a meal, a dollop of whipped cream without the dessert underneath.  In last year's film, "Blue Jasmine," the strength of the performances (especially Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett) and the resonance of its Bernie Madoff-ish crossed with "Streetcar Nam

posted 5:58:31pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Exclusive Clip: Behind the Scenes on "Calvary"
Brendan Gleeson gives a magnificent performance as a warm-hearted priest in a sad and damaged world in "Calvary," opening next week across the country.  Here's an exclusive peek behind the scenes, featuring Gleeson and Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies Sister Rose Pacatte. [iframe

posted 3:45:01pm Jul. 31, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.