Friday, May 20, 2016

Enemy at the Gates

Year 8, Day 140 - 5/19/16 - Movie #2,340

BEFORE: Quite a few World War II films in the past month, like "Fury" and "The Great Raid", and after tonight I've still got more of them planned, to coincide with Memorial Day and July 4.  It's been 75 years since the start of WW2 (the American part of it, anyway), and it's still a hot topic for cinema.  At one of my jobs I'm currently doing publicity for a mockumentary about Hitler, so I'm right in line with the trend.  Jude Law carries over from "Alfie", and I'm done with him for now, moving on to the next links in the chain.

THE PLOT: A Russian and a German sniper play a game of cat-and-mouse during the Battle of Stalingrad.

AFTER: The film starts with one of those traditional animated maps, with the Nazi forces represented by the color black, spreading over Europe and into Russia, looking something like an infection or a cancer taking over a living thing.  Obviously Hitler was the most evil man in history, and I'd never support the Nazis in any way, but choosing black as the color symbolizing Germany, advancing into the healthy red-colored Russia, well, it's a stylistic choice that amounts to propaganda in its own way.  Plus I don't think that an army taking territory should necessary look the same as ink spilled on to a piece of paper.  Geez, you gotta figure that Hitler was a guy you didn't want to play against in a game of "Risk", right?  Or any board game, really - if you played "Monopoly" against Hitler he'd probably annex the "Free Parking" space and rename it Germany.  

But this is a film about Russian soldiers standing up to Nazis in Stalingrad, and it's a form of propaganda in its own way - someone had an agenda here.  I was raised in the Cold-War 1970's and 80's, and during that time the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire, they could have bombed us at any point, and the U.S. sent weapons to Afghanistan just because the Afghanis were fighting the Russians - and there was no way that decision would ever come back to bite us in the ass.  Plus the Russians had the nerve to boycott the Olympics in L.A., just because we boycotted the games in Moscow.  Jeez, what a bunch of sore losers and copycats.  When we boycotted it was a political statement, when they did it, it was just sour grapes, am I right?  

But anyway, I'm not falling for the portrayal of Russians here - they didn't even get any Russian actors to play Russians, or any actors that could do a believable Russian accent!  OK, maybe the best was Bob Hoskins playing Nikita Khrushchev, but the others weren't even trying.  And it's not subtle at all, they cast a bunch of British actors to play Russians, and an American actor in the lead Nazi role - that's it, right there, the Russians are "good" with their refined, elegant accents, and the Nazis are "bad" with their coarse, boorish American accents.  Again, I'm not saying Nazis weren't bad, because most of them probably were, it's just an oversimplification for the purposes of cinema.  

See, the Russian sniper is a folk hero, a man defending his city, taking pride in blowing the heads off of the evil invaders, but the Nazi sniper is a cold, callous evil bastard, who won't even play by the general rules of war, like changing his position once in a while.  Yet the two men are doing the exact same job - so how is one a hero and the other a villain?  It's somewhat automatic just because of the whole Nazi thing, I guess, and the fact that the enemy of my enemy is allegedly my friend - so, sure, let's root for the Russians because as a people they've NEVER done anything wrong, like mistreating the masses or invading other countries.  

Yeah, right....

Also starring Ed Harris (last seen in "Snowpiercer"), Rachel Weisz (last seen in "About a Boy"), Joseph Fiennes (last seen in "The Great Raid"), Ron Perlman (last seen in "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters"), Bob Hoskins (last seen in "Maid in Manhattan"), Eva Mattes, Gabriel Thomson, Matthias Habich.

RATING: 5 out of 10 leaflets

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