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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Enemy at the Gates [Blu-ray]


(Jean-Jacques Annaud, 2001)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Repérage Productions

Blu-ray: Paramount Home Entertainment



Region: All

Runtime: 131 min

Chapters: 20

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 19, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC



English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Spanish & French Dolby Digital 5.1



English SDH, English, French, Spanish & Portuguese



• Through the Crosshairs - in SD (19:36)

• Inside Enemy at the Gates - SD (15:01)

• 9 Deleted Scenes - SD (10:13)

• Theatrical Trailer in HD



The Film: 6
Perhaps you will remember Director Jean-Jacques Annaud from two of his earlier and more successful movies: Quest for Fire and The Name of the Rose. Annaud is fond of darkness and monstrosity, and the actor that has most represented the director to this end for Annaud has been Ron Perlman. Perlman has no fewer than 165 separate acting listings in the IMDB – the second of which was as Amoukar (I didn't remember this guy had a name) in the relatively mute Quest for Fire of 1981. In 1986 he was the memorable and hideous Salvatore in The Name of the Rose. The following year he would be the obvious choice for Vincent in the TV series Beauty and the Beast which, by the way, brought Linda Hamilton to everyone's attention.

I digress by way of this actor before I even begin my review because it is Perlman's character, Koulikov, a gifted and savvy veteran of the war, and Perlman's emotional power as an actor, visually and otherwise, that should have been the third character in this movie, not Rachel Weisz's. The Joseph Fiennes character, Danilov, who discovers and exploits the sniper Vassili (Jude Law) should have been the fourth. Bob Hoskins as General Nikita Khrushchev was inspired and could have been enhanced. But the idea of sifting in a love triangle has no place in this film. This is not, after all, Zhivago, a story with a broad canvas that could absorb the good, but confused doctor, Lara, and Komarovsky.

Enemy at the Gates is inspired by real-life events during the internecine siege of Stalingrad at a pivotal point in World War II. When all seems lost, a lone Russian sniper begins to kill off German officers in serious numbers, so the Germans send in their best man to hunt him down.



Image: 8/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Not an image to complain about, the original material is often dark and gritty with enough light thrown in to highlight the subject. After all, the snipers are trying not to be seen. It's an interesting challenge for the DP. I saw very few blemishes, though it was difficult to tell dirt from dirt here. Film grain is present, but nothing that gets in the way of seeing what's going on. Again, this represents another artistic challenge because we would expect grain in a film about WWII as a kind of faux-documentary, but the filmmakers didn't allow themselves to go very far in that direction. If anything, they seem to vacillate between the one and a slick rendering of the scene. I was aware of no other enhancements, artifacts or DNR. Bit rates tend to be high – around 30 MBPS.














Audio & Music: 7/9
I was surprised that the surrounds were not used to better advantage in the boat crossing scene near the beginning of the movie. More attention was paid to the music than the panning of planes passing overhead or the bullets flying across the frame. On the other hand, the rushing of armies toward each other fills the space with courageous doom. Bass and treble effects are good, but not as dynamically expressed in either direction as we are used to hearing in such movies in the past decade or so. Yet the effect is scattered rather than specific, an emotional expression of the actual experience, I would guess.

James Horner's music is lush and "Hollywood" with long melodic lines rather than punchy percussive motifs. His music is every bit as important as the cinematography, art direction and sound effects to bring us into the emotional and immersive experience.



Operations: 6
There's very little to the unanimated menu page, though what's there is simple enough – with one important caveat: the extra features are only accessible from the Home Menu page. So if you want to go there from anywhere in the movie, it automatically pause until you return, even if it looks like you've lost your place.


Extras: 3
All the extras are shown in standard definition, but look very good in 4:3 and/or letterboxed format. Even the deleted scenes which, for a change, are probably the best of the bunch, look very good, both in terms of image and content. "Through the Crosshairs is very EPK, though it starts off promisingly with Annaud talking about how the idea of making a movie about snipers grabbed his attention. Too bad he didn't stick with that idea for the movie he ended up making. "Inside Enemy at the Gates" is more about the historical context of the story. (Shouldn't these two features have their titles reversed!) There are nine deleted scenes,
most of which could have been left in for character breadth, though it wouldn't have saved a doomed idea.



Bottom line: 6
A perfectly good idea for a movie ruined by producers with their eyes on the box-office. And it didn't help. Serves them right. A triangulated love story is just what this movie did not need. That said, the image looks pretty good, especially considering that a good deal of the action is meant to be hidden from view. The audio is convincing, but the bonus features are weak.

Leonard Norwitz
May 24th, 2009








About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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