Enemy at the Gates
Rating: * * * 1/2 Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud Running time: 132 minutes Language: EnglishNow showing

You could probably count on one hand the number of European directors with the budgets and grand vision to compete directly with Hollywood films. Somewhere between Luc Besson and Bernardo Bertolucci you'd land on Jean-Jacques Annaud, who's had his share of hits, reviving Sean Connery's career with "The Name of the Rose" and landing Brad Pitt for "Seven Years in Tibet."

Annaud's latest, "Enemy at the Gates" -- starring Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and Ed Harris -- is a tense duel of snipers set in the caldron of Stalingrad during the climactic battle, when a desperate Soviet defense finally blunted the Nazi blitzkrieg in 1942.

Based loosely on the exploits of actual Soviet war hero Vassili Zaitsev (Law), "Enemy at the Gates" shows how this young man was thrown into combat and within nine days became a hero to the entire Soviet Union. As his exploits boost the defenders' morale, Hitler orders a crack sniper -- aristocratic Maj. Konig (Harris) -- to track down Vassili and terminate him. This leads to an exquisitely tense cat-and-mouse duel amid the ruins of the city.