War. War never changes. Following the failure of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany once again grew strong. Powerful. Impetuous. In their mad lust for power, their tyrannical government invaded Eastern Europe, France, and, eventually, the Soviet Union. Das Rodina proved too strong, however, and, combined with the productive might of the United States and the determination of the British Empire, the Third Reich fell.
One of the pivotal points for the fall of the Third Reich, immortalized like most moments in warfare by Sabaton, was the Battle of Stalingrad. This battle proved the start of the downfall of the Eastern Front. Now, imagine this pivotal moment, this turning point in one of the most brutal periods in world warfare, and add a romance.
To say Enemy at the Gates is to Stalingrad what James Cameron’s Pearl Harbor is to, well, Pearl Harbor, is a misnomer, in that Enemy at the Gates is still a good watch. The movie itself is of European origin, and stars a Soviet sniper during the Battle of Stalingrad. The film is based on a subplot from a nonfiction book about the battle, though the movie is only loosely based on the facts and takes a fair few liberties. Fans of Call of Duty: World at War –back when CoD was good- may remember the Stalingrad mission. It’s a reference to the movie.
For one, the film plays up the incompetence of the Red Army, downplays the horrors of Stalingrad, and is in general not popular in Russia. Also yes, there is a love triangle, just like Pearl Harbor, and yes, it’s just as unnecessary and pointless as in Pearl Harbor. The movie is not an accurate portrayal of Stalingrad, and in fact history buffs can make a drinking game out of the inaccuracies, which might explain my psoriasis.
Despite its historical and romantic flaws, the movie remains a gripping tale of soldiers thrust into one of the most devastating battles of World War II. Stalingrad halted the Third Reich in their tracks, allowing the Soviets to counter attack and ultimately push into the Reichstag itself, as fans of World at War or actual history might remember.
As a war film and tale of two empires struggling for survival –and it bears remembering that on the Eastern Front, the war between Fascism and Stalinism was a war of survival- the movie does an admirable job. Fans of war films who don’t mind artistic liberties for the sake of drama are sure to enjoy the film. Enemy at the Gates is a perfectly fine tale of war and struggle for survival, wrapped in a romantic plot and a lot of historical inaccuracy. Despite its flaws the film remains perfectly enjoyable for those willing to entertain themselves with a story of war and love.
Enemy at the Gates may be just one of many war films, but its focus on the Eastern Front itself is a refreshing novelty. American audiences, obsessed with their efforts in the Western Front and the Pacific, often overlook just how pivotal the Eastern Front proved to the war effort. That alone is enough reason to watch the film, because war. War never changes.