The great war films offer more than just carnage and melodrama. Amid the chaos and the killing, they can give us examples of virtue and heroism, or they can point the way to wisdom by showing us the emptiness of pride and violence. While a hyperviolent Steven Seagal flick ruled the box office this week, it was a new epic war film that kept the critics talking.


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Enemy at the Gates, a new film by Jean Jacques-Annaud, is getting reviews of all colors. The film is based (very loosely) on a true story about a sniper in Stalingrad during World War II. Some critics are put off that what is basically an archetypical showdown would be cast in the middle of such a vast and complicated political conflict, a rivalry picture boasting to be historically significant. Others rave about its style, suspense, and performances. Critics in the religious media are likewise split.

Enemy tells the story of Vassili (Jude Law), a Russian shepherd who becomes a famous sniper and inspires the troops to resist Nazis during the 1942 battle of Stalingrad. A political officer named Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) trumpets Vassili's success stories, taking advantage of the gunner's skill to advance his own military career. But Vassili's fame spurs retaliation—a sinister German sniper named Konig (Ed Harris) comes looking for him, and a battle of cleverness and precise shooting is under way. When an attractive and militant woman (Rachel Wiesz) comes between Vassili and his agent, a formulaic love triangle develops.

Some of the critics in the religious media were disturbed to see a hero who was a socialist, although socialist soldiers valiantly resisted the Nazi forces in Stalingrad. Ted Baehr of Movieguide is offended that the film "extols Communism as the lesser ...

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