Based on a true story, Enemy at the Gates tells of two rival snipers, one German, one Russian, who stalk each other in the ruins of Stalingrad during World War II. Glamor boy Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Gattaca) dresses down to play Russian peasant Vasily Zaitsev who learned to shoot a rifle from his grandfather. Joseph Fiennes plays his friend in the propaganda office who makes him into a national hero. The two compete for the attentions of a smart, beautiful communications officer (Rachel Weisz) in what some say is a tacked-on love story.
The real story is the tense, calculated, exciting strategizing of the two snipers. Ed Harris (Pollock) gives the German Major Koenig a dark, slick, classy sheen to offset Vasily’s nervous rural rube. The patient waiting game the two play as they stalk one another contrasts with the chaos of the battle scenes in an effective, entertaining war thriller.