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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 9 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • 2 Featurette - Through The Crosshairs, Inside Enemy At The Gates
  • Animated menus

Enemy at the Gates

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 125 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Snipers. They tend to be glorified by military buffs and even the public; the 'one shot, one kill' credo adopted by the elite snipers of the special forces around the world. Snipers have an ability to create fear and a single sniper can halt the advance of an entire battalion, at least temporarily.

This is a film about sniper vs. sniper. Jude Law as Vassilij Zaitzev and Ed Harris as Erwin Koening. They could not be more different. Zaitzev is the 5 o'clock shadowed young man who is the son of a shepherd. Koenig is the aristocratic officer who himself has a son around Zaitzev's age. Koening has it in experience over Zaitzev. These two become symbols of their respective armies - propaganda tools. Both dislike this interference, Koening perhaps liking the spirit of the man vs. man fight and Zaitzev just wanting this situation to be over. Zaitzev just wants to go home.

The dirty and relatively uneducated Zaitzev vs. the aristocratic and educated Koening act as mirrors of their respective armies.

Vassilij Zaitzev is discovered by high ranking propaganda officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) quite by accident. Ziatsev can do things with a scoped Moisin-Nagant 7.62mm that few others can. Danilov works directly under Nikita Kruschev (Bob Hoskins) who is directly responsible for the Stalingrad defence. Kruschev is the same one who will use his shoe to great effect at the United Nations and would prove to be quite an adversary for John F. Kennedy.

There are not that many main characters. Rachel Weisz is a fellow soldier, but she is highly educated and speaks German; she proves to be a great asset for Russian intelligence but she longs to field the rifle. She is also very beautiful, although thankfully she doesn't look like a fashion model in the rubble. Ron Perlman plays Ron Perlman as a grizzled old sniper who tries to teach Zaitzev some tricks, alas he has but a cameo.

There is a young boy called Sascha (Gabriel Thomson) who plays a pivotal role between the two opposing snipers. I would note that he has possibly the strongest English accent of the cast. This is something many people cannot get over.

There are two major German roles. Harris is about perfect. He affects a slightly clipped Teutonic accent that never seems overdone. No 'jah wohl' and 'mein kommandant' here.

However all the Russian characters have English accents, Hoskins puts on a Russian accent every so often but it wavers. Law and Weisz are strongly English, both sound like they were educated at Eton. Fiennes perhaps has his brother's talent for neutral accents. Even the support cast all have English accents; some even sound provincial (i.e. you can pick which part of England they come from). I do suppose it sounds strange when 'Ludmila' sounds like she's from Liverpool.

Strangely this works extremely well for me. I am reminded of George Orwell's '1984' with the strongly fascist yet English characterisation. Even the backdrop in similar with a drab, broken down industrial city as the setting. The Russian army's intense version of military justice and spectre of 'Uncle Joe' reinforces this. The propaganda and 'group think' is certainly the same. Perhaps this is just me...

In any case, it hard for anyone to affect an authentic Russian accent without sounding like a 'Dr. Evil' from a James Bond movie.

  Video
Contract

The video is of reference quality. It is anamorphic 2.35:1 and it is almost impossible to pick flaws. The strengths are clear, the smoke is translucent, the greys are finely graded and the colours when they are present are strongly saturated and vibrant. Stalingrad is a broken city with plenty of rubble, twisted steel, destroyed factories and upturned cars and armoured vehicles. This grim but complex backdrop is well detailed with every piece of twisted steel being easily visible. Explosions are bright orange saturated affairs.

Skin tones are excellent with the dirty ruddy looking Law and Fiennes contrasting with a pasty and grey haired Harris. The Russians are a ragtag army compared to a disciplined and neat looking Nazi Wehrmacht. Black and shadow details are excellent although not a great deal is at night.

The only things I could pick out were some aliasing on repeated patterns (of course this disappeared on progressive players) and some hazing and lack of detail on bright backgrounds. Some of the black borders on a light background aren't razor sharp but then they weren't all that crisp on the theatrical print. There are some specks in some places but that is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

The spray of dust or blood during combat is portrayed in wrenching fashion. So is the ugly reality of bullet shots and explosive wounds.

  Audio
Contract

There are two audio tracks, a Dolby 5.1 track at 448k/s and a DTS 5.1 track at 768k/s. Both are largely identical. The only things I could tell between them is a slightly more cohesive surround experience in the DTS track - bass is better integrated and surround pans are more smoother. The score is by James Horner and is less 'flamboyant' than his other films. It does work very well, however, with the requisite emotive content and tension for the visuals. It will not linger in one's mind when the film is over, however.

As an aside, the music in the trailer and the deleted scenes are not from Horner; the trailer I can't name but it's from a movie I have seen and probably own, the music from the deleted scenes is from another war movie that is often compared to Saving Private Ryan.

Voices are slightly more elevated in the Dolby track courtesy of a boost dialnorm. I have played the DTS track all the way through and at extended volume and could easily understand every word spoken - even those whispered in the middle of some noisy effects. At lower volumes I'd expect the Dolby track may exhibit more vocal clarity given its slightly elevated levels at low volume.

Effects are excellent with all the sounds of battle one can expect; the sharp report of high velocity rifle fire, the snapping of rifle bolts and the tinkle of spent casings on concrete. There are numerous instances of rumbling tanks, booming howitzer blasts and redlining piston engines in aircraft fly-bys. The bass is not as low as other films, but is still full of impact.

Overall this is a great soundtrack with excellent dynamics and all the hallmarks of a modern, well mixed digital experience. It is not the equal of perhaps Saving Private Ryan which is an obvious comparison. Perhaps the strongest criticism is that there is not a great deal of rear channel activity unlike other films. Be that as it may, it deserves to be placed among the great surround experiences of the modern era.

I can tell this disc was prepared with some care; the Dolby 'Train' trailer plays if you go for Dolby, DTS 'Piano' plays for the DTS track.

  Extras
Contract

There aren't a great deal of extras, but what is there is of good quality. There is a threatrical trailer in 5.1 and anamorphic. Same visual and audio quality as the film and slickly edited. If you can name the score, I'd appreciate an email.

There are nine deleted scenes in basic stereo and non-anamorphic video quality. There's a biography, but this one at least has quite a bit of detail.

There are two featurettes. One is just under 20 minutes and is called Through the Crosshairs. It looks like a 30 minute special (including commercials) and is full frame and stereo. The second is called Inside Enemy at the Gates and is about 15 minutes long, also in full frame. There is some repeated material and both are rather interesting to a certain point.

The second is perhaps a bit better as there are more interviews with cast and crew. There is also a skippable Village trailer which you all like at the beginning of a disc I'm sure.

This is a packed disc at 7.35Gb - the layer change is just after a very awkward sex scene. I do not know how the European release gets away with both a full length commentary AND a full bitrate DTS track!

  Overall  
Contract

I was hesitant to see this film. It has been described as slow and some people cannot get over the accents issue. The pacing is slower than other war films, but that is the nature of snipers. I like war films, there's hardly any I dislike. There's very few in the modern era that I do not own, This one deserves to be among the greats. I suggest the German language 'Stalingrad' as a counter.

I would note that the greatest snipers were Russian but they were women surprisingly enough.


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      And I quote...
    "A slightly atypical war movie with the trademark Village Roadshow quality..."
    - Tony Lai
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 105(s)
    • MPEG Card:
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    • Projector:
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    • Decoder:
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    • Amplifier:
          Parasound HCA-1206THX
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    • Surrounds:
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    • Subwoofer:
          Mission 75as
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    • Video Cables:
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