Enemy at the Gates, set during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II, is not the kind of war film it starts as. In the first twenty minutes it does a good job of showing the horror the Russian troops had to deal with (accurately or not) - if they go forward the Nazi's will definitely shoot them, if they retreat their own side will definitely shoot them. But out of this comes a film about characters rather than the usual messy chaos. It centres in on Vasily Zaytsev, a sniper who shoots down dozens of high-ranking Nazis, developing a rivalry with a highly-skilled German sniper. Even though it's set in the middle of a fierce battle, this is a film about quiet precision and intimate tactics. The rest of the war seems to be shut out as the two men stalk each other around the city. And through propaganda they become celebrities, each embodying the country they fight for. Occasionally the script has something to say about the pressures of fame and the insincerity of the characters it creates. But mostly it's a good suspense thriller.
Maybe there's just something naturally interesting about snipers. The best scenes of the film are when one man has the other in his sights, waiting to make a clear shot. Sheltered from the rest of the battle, it's almost cozy. I'll try to use even more inappropriate adjectives in the next post.