A turning point of World War II, the siege of Stalingrad cost the lives of an estimated 800,000 Axis troops and 1.1m Soviet soldiers, as well as decimating the city's population: a saga recounted with great dignity and care in Antony Beevor's bestseller. And so one approaches Annaud's film with some hope and even expectation of intensity, scale, and gravity. Then you remember that Annaud's 'best' films are Quest for Fire and The Bear: dialogue is not his forte. This begins as it means to go on, somewhere under the shadow of Saving Private Ryan. Law is Vassili Zaitsev, a sharpshooter from the Urals, fed into the meat grinder that is Stalingrad by Uncle Joe's war machine. His introduction to this hell-zone is the best thing in the film. Making what is reportedly the most expensive European production ever, Annaud hasn't stinted on the mud, the rubble or the corpses. An unerring shot, Zaitsev becomes a banner hero with the help of Fiennes' army press attaché. Set-pieces get you so far (and Annaud delights in blowing this set to pieces), but the script's shortcomings aren't camouflaged by the decision to adopt Home Counties' accents as the film's lingua franca. To offset the drama's necessarily remote snipers' duel (Harris is the German officer drafted in to get rid of this upstart Russian morale-booster), the film contrives an underwritten love triangle between Fiennes, Law and Weisz, which can't help but seem like a sop to box office considerations.