PictureEnemy at the Gates comes presented with a fairly disappointing 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1. It is a shame really, as this is the kind of film which could be forgiven for having a dirty set and murky shell-torn backdrops, but unfortunately the presentation is actually littered with visible defects - pause on occasion throughout and you can see some actually blocking across the screen. It is annoying as hell and totally unnecessary. As I said, the setting is pretty hazy anyway, so if you don't pay attention I suspect you would get away without thinking anything of it, but as soon as you notice something - you will notice everything. Still, detail itself is generally very good indeed, both on longer pans and the closer shots, with every pore, every grain of dirt, given its own room to breathe. The colour scheme is as bleak as a Siberian winter, even the reds of the Red Army drained and dour, but all totally appropriate given the world war setting. Grain is also a little bit of a problem, but I suppose this is much more likely to be intentional than the aforementioned blemishes. It's an ok-ish video presentation, but not in the least bit indicative of what the High Def format is capable of.
SoundTo accompany the movie, the soundtrack does a much better job, a solid Dolby TrueHD offering that gives it punch in all the bombastic bombing sequences and keen observation of detail during the quieter moments. It excels in neither respect, but certainly improves upon previous SD-DVD capabilities, bringing us some excellent D-day-esque battle sequences, plenty of echoing thunder-shot sniping segments, and that massive bombing run across the city. On the smaller scale, we obviously have to pay attention to detail as there are snipers everywhere, watching for every shimmering light, every slight movement or noise, and the ambient atmospherics do a pretty good job. The score is quite rousing and patriotic - in a Russian way, of course - and also has quite a good theme for all the major confrontational sequences. Overall it is not a benchmark example of what your equipment can do, but still marks a notable improvement over the previous editions.
ExtrasAll we get in terms of extras is the material that has been ported over from the original SD-DVD release. There are a couple of Featurettes - 'Through the Crosshairs' and the slightly more fluffy 'Inside Enemy at the Gates' - totalling little over half an hour of behind the scenes exposition, interviews with relevant cast and crew members and promotional stuff. The former has the benefit of some insight into sniper training, looking at what the leads had to do to be convincing sharpshooters (which is interesting material), whereas the latter looks more at the characters and some key scenes. There's also 10 minutes' worth of Deleted Scenes, with a little more on some of the key characters but nothing vital at all. Finally we get the trailer to round off the discs.
VerdictEnemy at the Gates is a superior movie, combining outstanding war set-pieces and an authentic backdrop, with the heart of a sniper movie. Although some might argue that this dilutes both aspects, I think that the film is possibly the best sniper movie I have ever seen, and a pretty good war movie too, even if not a mould-breaker. On Blu-ray I have to say I expected it to look marginally better, although at least the soundtrack is something of an improvement. The same lacklustre extras disappoint even more so here than they did on DVD but overall this is still a movie worth adding to your collection. Recommended, particularly for fans of sniper films!
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