Saving Private Zaitev
Enemy at the Gates
Review by Ross Anthony

1942, A trainload of young Russian soldiers (Jude Law among them) spills out into the Volga River to Stalingrad; German bullets ripping through the chests of the brave ones, Russian bullets piercing the backs of the cowards. Law somehow survives, his amazing marksmanship witnessed by an enthusiastic Russian writer (Joe Fiennes) who delights in fighting the Germans with propaganda instead of gunpowder. Fiennes makes a war hero out of Law, "We need examples, yes, but to follow, not fear." A fine set up to a film where the war itself becomes the backdrop to an indecisive focus between a love story and a one-on-one of dueling snipers.

After an opening sequence reminiscent of "Saving Private Ryan," the newspaper black and whites of Jude Law with his rifle and those award winning eyes piercing through the print and the depression lifts the hopes of those fighting to save Stalingrad. They'll make your heart swell, too.

Law and Fiennes become fast friends, and then of course, in walks a woman soldier, Rachel Weisz -- well educated, but tough. Law is embarrassed by his lack of proper literacy. Later, unfortunately too much later, jealousy and desire provide the ammunition for a climactic ending. But with the timing off, the supply of ammo loses its potency while the passion misfires, missing targets it should have hit.

A brash barracks love scene graces the picture, but ought to have occurred twenty or so minutes prior in order to set up believable intentions - namely the picture cutting exercise. A few other improbable progressions snag what essentially is a very nice piece of work.

That opening sequence not only compels, but takes firm hold of your heart, only to slowly lose its grasp with a third act nearly as chaotic as war. Strong direction (aside from story telling difficulties), solid acting (especially from Law - he's awesome), tremendous set design and cinematography. The positives create a stronghold; though taking casualties, this fort of a film still stands.

Perhaps a better title: "Snipers in Love"

  • Enemy at the Gates. Copyright © 2001. Rated R.
  • Starring Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins and Ed Harris.
  • Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
  • Written by Alain Godard & Jean-Jacques Annaud
  • Produced by John D. Schofield & Jean-Jacques Annaud at Mandalay/Paramount.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:11:56 PDT