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War movies are cool. Period. Too often the hype and effectiveness of a film is tarnished by some anorak-wearing middle-aged war historian crying foul over the shade of green used for the German’s helmets. Film is meant to be interesting. If every little historical detail was followed the movie would sustain a little more than just a verbal barrage from a few grumpy old men; box-office takings would take a bullet because of their inability to entertain for a couple of hours. Enemy At The Gates is based on actual events. After all, you can’t really invent a war to portray on film. I’m no historian but whatever is or isn’t included in the flick was a conscious decision on behalf of the filmmakers to entertain. And they succeed.

Impressive animated menus...
The film tells the story of Russian sniper Vassili Zaitsev who single-handedly goes about decimating the German forces whilst at the same time becoming the focal point for Russian war propaganda. The infamous battle for Stalingrad is retold, though exactly how accurately I’m not too sure. Nevertheless, snipers make for good viewing and this one is no exception. The tales told of Zaitsev’s adventures inspire the Russian soldiers desperate for a war-hero to lift their spirits. With the hard-nosed commander Nikita Krushchev looking on, Vassili’s tale is one of desperation, desire and outright skill. The personal trauma involved with fighting a war is dealt with in the usual fashion and suspense is around every corner, but the real interest is in the eyes of Vassili and his eventual adversary, the equally talented Major Konig. Once Konig is brought in to kill the makeshift Russian hero the extraordinary game of cat and mouse begins, with the tedium of waiting for the perfect shot thankfully minimised.

This flick can be truly classified as absorbing thanks to convincing locations and controlled performances. Jude Law reveals he was looking for something to really focus on after his break from acting for a while and it is beneficial to the movie that he looked down the crosshairs and found this one. The DVDLadies who frequent the site will probably testify to the fact that his eyes can draw you in, making him the perfect choice to play the visually gifted Vassili. Ed Harris understates his character to powerful perfection and provides the perfect villain to counter the Russian hero. Bob Hoskins has never looked so Russian as the eventual Soviet Premier Krushchev and Rachel Weisz becomes more than a mummy-finder as Vassili’s little war fling. Solid performances all round.

Wartorn Stalingrad
The film is presented in 2.35:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. The transfer is pretty darn stunning, even for a war film. The greens and grey maintain their sharpness and notoriously tricky effects such as smoke and snow hold their own extremely well. This is another winner from Roadshow, who have put a lot of effort into making this one much better than average. Blacks look very deep and there are no flaws to be seen amongst the debris. Great visual make this one even more compelling.

The disc has been blessed with a Dolby 5.1 and a DTS soundtrack, with both being capable of knocking your socks off at the appropriate times. The bass-driven surround effects are as persistent as the fighting and continually rumble around throughout the film. This kind off surround usage drives home the ability of the sound to immerse you in the story and make you believe there’s more going on than merely what you see in the confines of your TV. All the speakers get a workout, with subtle bombs and whizzing bullets sounding brilliant amongst the perfectly clear dialogue being spoken. Definitely a winner.

A decent spattering of extras, even though the disc was crying out for a commentary from Director Jean-Jacques Annaud. Nevertheless, there’s probably just enough to suffice.

First up is a behind the scenes featurette labelled Inside Enemy At The Gates. The usual interviews and cast praise is included in this 15 minute piece, probably made for a TV audience at some point. There is enough information to maintain interest but probably not one for repeat viewings.

Next is a slightly longer piece entitled Through The Crosshairs which plays out much like the first one. Some more info is revealed in this one, including basically all of the plot. Don’t watch either before you check out the film, although I don’t think anyone would. The montage aspects with highlights of the film aren’t bad but the interviews are probably the most valuable aspect in this piece. Solid.

Deleted Scenes are also included, with nine pieces included as part of an impressive cutting room package. Thankfully all can be played at the same time without going back to the menu, something that should have been done with similar pieces on a lot of other discs. Content is quite good, though the visual quality is understandably a little lacking. The best little snippet is a scene called Soup Time, which would have given a little more depth to one of the characters before his tragic death. This package is easily the most valuable on the disc.

Also included are Cast & Crew biographies and the very impressive theatrical trailer.

Vassili the hero
A very impressive film that holds up amongst the best of the war flicks to date. Focusing more on the story of one particular character and his effect on the overall scheme of things, Enemy At The Gates combines some awesome visuals and an immersing story to maintain the intrigue until the final gunshots. Combine this with a brilliant soundtrack and a neat little extras package and you’ve got yourself a good buy. No need to wave the white flag for this one; just charge in and seize the impressive disc.