Enemy at the Gates

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Enemy at the Gates
Enemy at the gates ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJean-Jacques Annaud
Produced byJean-Jacques Annaud
John D. Schofield
Written byJean-Jacques Annaud
Alain Godard
Based onEnemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad
by William Craig
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyRobert Fraisse
Edited byNoëlle Boisson
Humphrey Dixon
Mandalay Pictures
Repérage Films[1]
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 16, 2001 (2001-03-16)
Running time
131 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$68 million[4]
Box office$97 million[4]

Enemy at the Gates is a 2001 war film written and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and based on William Craig's 1973 nonfiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, which describes the events surrounding the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942 and 1943.[5] The film's main character is a fictionalized version of sniper Vasily Zaytsev, a Hero of the Soviet Union during World War II.[6] It includes a snipers' duel between Zaytsev and a Wehrmacht sniper school director, Major Erwin König.


In 1942, following the invasion of the Soviet Union the year before, Vasily Zaytsev (Jude Law), a shepherd from the Ural Mountains who is now a soldier in the Red Army, finds himself on the front lines of the Battle of Stalingrad. Forced into a suicidal charge by barrier troops against the invading Germans, he uses impressive marksmanship skills—taught to him at a young age by his grandfather—to save himself and commissar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes).

Nikita Khrushchev (Bob Hoskins) arrives in Stalingrad to coordinate the city's defences and demands ideas to improve morale. Danilov, now a senior lieutenant, suggests that the people need figures to idolise and give them hope, and publishes tales of Vasily's exploits in the army's newspaper that paint him as a national hero and propaganda icon. Vasily is transferred to the sniper division, and he and Danilov become friends. They also both become romantically interested in Tania Chernova (Rachel Weisz), a citizen of Stalingrad who has become a private in the local militia. In fear for her safety, Danilov has her transferred to an intelligence unit away from the battlefield, ostensibly to make use of her German language skills in translating radio intercepts.

With the Soviet snipers taking an increasing toll on the German forces, German Major Erwin König (Ed Harris) is deployed to Stalingrad to kill Vasily and thus crush Soviet morale. A renowned marksman and head of the German Army sniper school at Zossen, he lures Vasily into a trap and kills two of his fellow snipers, but Vasily manages to escape. When the Red Army command learns of König's mission, they dispatch König's former student Koulikov (Ron Perlman) to help Vasily kill him. König, however, outmaneuvers Koulikov and kills him with a very skillful shot, shaking Vasily's spirits considerably. Khrushchev pressures Danilov to bring the sniper standoff to a conclusion.

Sasha, a young Soviet boy, volunteers to act as a double agent by passing König false information about Vasily's whereabouts, thus giving Vasily a chance to ambush the major. Vasily sets a trap for König and manages to wound him, but during a second attempt Vasily falls asleep after many sleepless hours and his sniper log is stolen by a looting German soldier. The German command takes the log as evidence of Vasily's death and plans to send König home, but König does not believe Vasily is dead. The commanding German general takes König's dog tags to prevent Russian propaganda from profiting if König is killed. König also gives the general a War Merit Cross that was posthumously awarded to König's son, who as a lieutenant in the 116th infantry division was killed in the early days of the Battle for Stalingrad. König tells Sasha where König will be next, suspecting that the boy will tell Vasily. Tania and Vasily have meanwhile fallen in love and have sex in the Russian barracks at night. The jealous Danilov disparages Vasily in a letter to his superiors.

König spots Tania and Vasily waiting for him at his next ambush spot, confirming his suspicions about Sasha. He then kills the boy and hangs his body off a pole to bait Vasily. Vasily vows to kill König, and sends Tania and Danilov to evacuate Sasha's mother (Eva Mattes) from the city, but Tania is wounded by shrapnel en route to the evacuation boats. Thinking she is dead, Danilov regrets his jealousy of Vasily and expresses disenchantment over his previous ardency for the Communist cause. Finding Vasily waiting to ambush König, Danilov intentionally exposes himself in order to provoke König into shooting him and revealing his hidden position. Thinking that he has killed Vasily, König goes to inspect the body, but realizes too late that he has fallen into a trap and is in Vasily's sights. Accepting his fate, König removes his hat and turns to face Vasily, who shoots him squarely in the forehead. Two months later, after Stalingrad has been liberated and the German forces have surrendered, Vasily finds Tania recovering in a field hospital.


Historical accuracy[edit]

Vasily Zaitsev was a senior sergeant of the 2nd Battalion, 1047th Rifle Regiment, 284th Tomsk Rifle Division. He was interviewed by Vasily Grossman during the battle and the account of that interview, lightly fictionalized in his novel, Life and Fate (1959),[7] is substantially the same as that shown in the movie without naming the German sniper with whom he dueled.

Historian Antony Beevor suggests in his non-fiction book Stalingrad (1998) that, while Zaitsev was a real person, the story of his duel (dramatised in the film) with König is fictional. Although William Craig's book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad (1973) includes a snipers' duel between Zaitsev and König, the sequence of events in the film is fictional. Zaitsev claimed in an interview to have engaged in a sniper duel over a number of days. Zaitsev, the only historical source for the story, stated that after killing the German sniper and upon collecting his identification tags, he found that he had killed the head of the Berlin Sniper School.[8] No sniper named König has ever been identified in the German records.[9]

In the film, Jude Law (portraying Zaitsev) uses a 7.62×54mmR Mosin Model 1891/30 sniper rifle with a PU 3.5X power sniper scope (i.e., the image is magnified three and one-half times); Vasily Zaitsev used a Model 1891/30 sniper rifle with an earlier and larger sniper telescope[citation needed] (his rifle is preserved in the Stalingrad History Museum in Russia)[citation needed]. Also, the poster for the film reverses the Mosin 1891/30 rifle photograph so that the bolt handle appears on the left side of the rifle instead of the right side where it should be.

The film portrays Zaitsev as barely able to read or write, while in reality he had taken construction and accounting courses and worked in administrative duties. Tania's character was also heavily fictionalized. She was, according to her own reports, actually a sniper herself who trained under Zaitsev during the war and became one of the most infamous and ruthless snipers at Stalingrad (although this is doubted by Antony Beevor). She was motivated to join the war as a means to avenge her grandparents who were murdered by the invading Germans. Moreover the Soviet national anthem played In the movie was composed In 1944 by Alexandrov however in the movie, the time is of 1942 and the anthem should have been the International


Based on 137 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 54% approval rating from critics with a weighted average score of 5.7/10. The reviews were summarized as "Atmospheric and thrilling, 'Enemy at the Gates' gets the look and feel of war right. However, the love story seems out of place."[10] Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, calculated an average score of 53 out of 100, based on 33 reviews.[11]

Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and wrote that it "is about two men placed in a situation where they have to try to use their intelligence and skills to kill each other. When Annaud focuses on that, the movie works with rare concentration. The additional plot stuff and the romance are kind of a shame."[12] New York Magazine's Peter Ranier was less kind, declaring "It's as if an obsessed film nut had decided to collect every bad war-film convention on one computer and program it to spit out a script."[13] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone admitted the film had faults, but that "any flaws in execution pale against those moments when the film brings history to vital life."[14]

The film was poorly received in Russia.[15] Some Red Army Stalingrad veterans were so offended by inaccuracies in the film and how the Red Army was portrayed that on 7 May 2001, shortly after the film premiered in Russia, they expressed their displeasure in the Duma, demanding a ban of the film, but their request was not granted.[16][17]

The film was also received poorly in Germany. Critics claimed that it simplified history and glorified war.[18][19][20] At the Berlinale film festival, it was booed. Annaud stated afterwards that he would not present another film at Berlinale, calling it a "slaughterhouse" and claiming that his film received much better reception elsewhere.[21][22]


The soundtrack to Enemy at the gates was released on March 31, 2009.

1."The River Crossing to Stalingrad"James Horner15:13
2."The Hunter Becomes the Hunted"James Horner5:53
3."Vassili's Fame Spreads"James Horner3:40
4."Koulikov"James Horner5:13
5."The Dream"James Horner2:35
6."Bitter News"James Horner2:38
7."The Tractor Factory"James Horner6:43
8."A Sniper's War"James Horner3:25
9."Sacha's Risk"James Horner5:37
10."Betrayal"James Horner11:28
11."Danilov's Confession"James Horner7:13
12."Tania (End Credits)"James Horner6:53
Total length:76:31[23]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ http://www.bbfc.co.uk/releases/enemy-gates-2001
  3. ^ "Enemy at the Gates (2001)". En.unifrance.org. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Enemy at the Gates". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
  5. ^ "Interview with Jean-Jacques Annaud, referenced by Constantin Film". Epilog.de (in German). Archived from the original on 2007-08-18.
  6. ^ "Biography: Vasily Zaytsev". Heroes of the Soviet Union and Russia (in Russian).
  7. ^ Grossman, Vasily (1959). "Part One, Chapter 55". Life and Fate.
  8. ^ Russia's War
  9. ^ Nieuwint, Joris (25 September 2015). "The Many Movie Mistakes Of Enemy At The Gates". WAR HISTORY ONLINE. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Enemy at the Gates Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  11. ^ "Enemy at the Gates: Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  12. ^ Roger Ebert. "Enemy At The Gates". Chicago Sun-Times.
  13. ^ "Is War Hell, Or What?". New York Magazine.
  14. ^ Peter Travers (2001-03-16). "Enemy at the Gates | Movie Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ "Stalingrad veterans demand ban of Enemy at the Gates". Lenta.ru. 8 Mar 2001. Retrieved 2010-08-13.
  17. ^ "VETERANS UPSET BY WESTERN MOVIE ON STALINGRAD", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, Volume 5, No. 89, Part I, May 10th, 2001".[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ "Allesfilm.com - all about film". Allesfilm.com. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  19. ^ [3]
  20. ^ "Duell - Enemy at the Gates". Filmszene.de. 20 August 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  21. ^ "Jean-Jacques Annaud: "Töten ist nie lustig"" (in German). Spiegel.de. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  22. ^ "Berlinale-Eröffnung: Buhrufe statt Prominenz" (in German). Spiegel.de. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  23. ^ "Enemy at the Gates Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved February 1, 2014.

External links[edit]