I was unaware that this film was based loosely on real soldiers, I had an idea it was close to reality but didn't realise the main characters were real, well Law's character. The film is woven into the intense Battle of Stalingrad and is solely about the duel between one Russian sniper and one German sniper.
I think this films suffers in the same way as some other historic films in the way they add a mushy love story. I can understand why they do this but it really does drag the main premise of the plot down, especially here. The setup is perfect for a real tense nail biter, the setting is a war torn Stalingrad and the effects/location teams have really done their homework here. Creeping in n out of bombed out buildings, masses of rubble, skeletons of buildings adorn the landscapes, bodies strewn around, the whole city is a shell of a former existence, a former life.
Into this land of ruin we have Jude Law as real Russian sniper Vassili Zaitsev who is pitted against German sniper (supposedly real) Major Erwin König. When you see either character on screen and lurking about it gets your heart racing, you wanna see what will happen, who will pick off who, predictably we know of course but the atmosphere is cracking. But my previous point, against this we have a droopy love tale which merely offers up sappy forced emotions to try and engage you further. Unfortunately all it does is kinda annoy you because you wanna see sniping action.
Being a film based on sniping and realism don't expect this to be chock full of explosions and mass action. What action there is is naturally slow but nicely nerve racking, well reasonably. It is a bit hokey because we all know damn well the main two won't possibly die until the end yet anyone else is fair game haha sniper fodder.
The film captures the propaganda of the time well, the way the Soviets made Zaitsev a national hero and tried to scare the Germans. Vice versa with the imposing threat of the older German marksman brought in to defeat the Soviet. All roles are played well in the visual sense, what I mean is all the cast look like they belong in this era, especially the drawn gaunt looking Harris. The only issue I had was the fact no one really tried for authentic accents bar Hoskins (looking like an angry Russian Hobbit). Law still has his cockney accent, Fiennes sounds English as does Weisz and Hoskins has a muddled cockney/Russian thing going on...but at least he tries.
I didn't really agree with one action that the director makes Harris's character (König) carry out in the film, a grim scene involving a young boy he trusts. Unsure how accurate that is suppose to be, I dare say its completely crap, they shouldn't really add things like that unless its accurate.
A well paced film that does show the realities of war to a degree if somewhat glorifying or romanticising it a touch. The Russians tend to drink and be generally rowdy when not fighting which doesn't seem too right. Not as epic as the films poster designs make out but still a decent war film focusing on a very good tale. The silent stern cold ruthlessness of Harris as the German sniper stands out for me here, but you still feel for him at the end. After all its war and every man simply does what he needs to do to survive.