Review: Enemy at the Gates
3 / 5 Stars
Last year I had the opportunity to read David L. Robbins' fictional historical novel, "War of the Rats". Focusing on the sniper war during World War II in Stalingrad between the Russians and the Germans, the book was thrilling, exciting and informative about how sniper warfare works. So imagine my glee when Enemy at the Gates, based on the same sniper duel, was announced. Unfortunately, I was to discover that this film was only "inspired by" the book "Enemy at the Gates", a historical account of this sniper war. So a few things are glossed over, and the result is a rather enjoyable (but only adequate) film. James Horner's score services the film well, providing the right amount of drama, romance, and tension. But the originality of the themes falls short compared to his previous efforts.
"The River Crossing To Stalingrad" covers a swath of 15-minutes on the album. With a wide range of thematic coverage, from the lyrical string work of the main love theme to the dramatic Russian choral war music. The ominous theme accompanying master German sniper Major Koenig (Ed Harris) is dark and brooding, almost like Howard Shore's style. A lot of the score fleshes out with constant use of these themes, intermingled with Horner's distinct and recognizable style. It's a lot of music, and doesn't quite stick with you, even though it's certainly enjoyable to listen to.
That being said, I have to say how disappointed I am with this score thematically. Sure Horner has his stylings, as do many composers. But Horner also has his themes - and we get a big reunion here with Enemy at the Gates. The Bavmorda trumpet flare from Willow, the romantic bits from Braveheart, some choir from Glory (which uses a variation on Saint Saens' Organ Symphony #3 - also adapted in Babe), and even the dramatic rocket launch from Apollo 13. They're all there, and they're surrounded by the main love theme which while it sounds a bit like Schindler's List, is probably based off the same Eastern European traditional tune that Williams borrowed from. Disappointed? Yes. Upset? No, since I've accepted this type of result from Horner these days.
The album runs a whopping 76-minutes long, and really doesn't need to be that hearty. It's nice to see these long albums, to be sure, but there isn't enough variety and originality in this score to really warrant stretching it out that long. It sure would be great to get something a bit more original from Horner for his next project. He's been consistent in providing rather enjoyable works of music, even if it means we might have heard parts of it before.
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