Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Enemy at the Gates

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Love during wartime — David and Goliath meets an ironic Peter and the Wolf. Enemy at the Gates is a cinematic storybook of romantic fairy tales set against the grim backdrop of the Nazi siege of Soviet Stalingrad.

Like the Peter of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic children’s story, Vassily Zaitsev (Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley) was raised by his grandfather on a farm threatened by wolves. Unlike Prokofiev’s gentle Peter, Vassily is taught to shoot by his grandfather. When wolves invade their gates and attack their horses, Vassily fires — and misses. As his grandfather takes down the predators, Vassily tearfully apologizes. He’ll never miss again.

Sept. 20, 1942: Vassily and all remaining able-bodied Soviets are mobilized to defend Stalingrad at all costs. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud (Saving Private Ryan’s D-Day invasion sequence and translates it into Russian. Fortified Nazi machine gunners on shore and Nazi fighter planes darkening an already leaden sky spray a lethal hail of bullets onto boatloads of Red Army soldiers. Vassily luckily survives.

Vassily goes into action, a Russian David against the Nazi Goliath, bringing down several German officers against nearly impossible odds. Political Officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes, letters@metrotimes.com.

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