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"Enemy at the Gates"

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
Written by Jean-Jacques Annaud and Alain Godard. 
Starring Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Joseph Fiennes and Ed Harris.
Release Year:  2001
Review Date:  1/1/01 


Whenever you see a good preview, you always hope that the movie will live up to its billing. You remember when the preview for "Star Wars, Episode One: The Phantom Menace" started making the rounds? That thing was getting standing ovations! But, the movie was only good, not great, and the preview built up people for a big fall. (I am currently hopeful that "Pearl Harbor" is even half as good as its trailer; every time I see that preview, the audience is left in stunned silence...this is a good thing.)

"Enemy at the Gates" has a great preview as well, and it looked intriguing so I have been anxiously awaiting the release of this film. And, as the Arizona/Butler game tipped off--following the 30-point annihilation suffered by Syracuse in their game against Kansas--I was bored, going on more bored, and decided to break out and see the movie. And, wow.

I mean, wow!! I loved this movie, and love... that's a strong word. Based on a true story on events during the battle at Stalingrad in 1942, the plot mostly follows the Russians' attempts to defend the city against the attacking German army. The part of the war we are treated to features a Russian sniper (Jude Law) that has miraculously racked up almost 60 kills in a month, taking out German officers around the bombed-out city. Used as a propaganda hero to rally the Russian troops, he becomes so famous that the Germans get ahold of his whereabouts and send the best sniper from Germany to kill him...a major (Ed Harris) that also is in charge of the German sniper school. Almost half the movie is spent watching Harris chase Law, and vice versa, and it is these scenes that make the movie so intriguing.

I liked this film so much that I was desperately trying to think of things that would make you NOT go and see this movie. Here's all that I can come up with.

1. You hate movies that have a great opening sequence, an interesting storyline at its heart and--finally!--a tense, exciting, realistic ending.  This movie has all of the above. The gut-wrenching opening sequence--where Russian soldiers are brought into Stalingrad by boat and, like "Saving Private Ryan", many of these soldiers are gutted by gunfire before they even land--is pretty intense. And, the end of this movie was just perfect, given the way the rest of the movie had played out.

2. You cringe at watching people get shot in the head. Hey, it's a sniper movie, and you should be aware that snipers apparently don't believe in body shots. So many people get shot in the forehead in this movie that I lost count.

3. You don't like watching sex scenes take place in tight quarters. The sex scene in this movie--featuring Law and co-star Rachel Weisz--takes place in a bunk area of the sniper base and you WILL have visions of the first time you fooled around in your college dorm room; for some people, this brings back horrific flashbacks of you, your partner, and the inconveniences that your bastard college administrators made you suffer through by providing only a twin-sized bed.

Other than that, you are gonna love this movie...and that Jude, he's hot (if you, ahem, like that sort of thing).

Rating: Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09