If one thought the backlash against Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan was unwarranted, then it would be best to channel those negative feelings toward Jean-Jacques Annaud's crude, poorly cast World War II drama. Using Ryan as a primer for faux jingoistic wartime clichés, the film never makes the brutality of Stalingrad palpable on any sensible level, merely wallowing in mediocrity from one ill-conceived scene to the next. The casting is equally baffling, with Brits Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes playing Russians and all-American Ed Harris playing a German. The film may have paid off if any actor were properly suited to his role. As it is, the leads are not nearly commanding enough to convince as battle soldiers, and Harris fails to make his ruthless sniper much more than a stock villain. A few scenes have requisite suspense, but are quickly undone by the director's unsteady hand and the silly screenplay, which makes it nearly impossible to comprehend the characters' actions. The movie is reportedly the highest-budgeted European feature in history, due to its lengthy, violent scenes of combat, which also seem directly inspired by Spielberg's picture.