Enemy at the Gates

Enemy at the Gates

Enemy of Bill Gates

The epic battle of Bill Gates and Steven Jobs is retold through the eyes of Gates.


Jude Law is Bill Gates. Ed Harris is Steven Jobs. War is the metaphor. Software is the reality. Whose operating platform will rule the post-war electronic era, and dominate not only the culture but the globe with its mandate of necessary capitalist efficiency, is the question this film decisively answers. Just as Umberto Eco showed us that the PC was Protestant while the Mac was Catholic, the stakes in this ideological war are as high as any crusade of national identity. Like the PC/Mac war, the Battle for Stalingrad was, in its cultural context, the decisive battle for the future of that country. Now that both the political and the technological cold wars are over, it’s safe to tell the story of one nestled snugly inside the technical details of the other. The message of this movie is, like most movies these days, "We’ve made the world safe for your consumerism. Don’t stop shopping."

Enemy at the Gates is, of course, history told from the winner’s side, and especially from the winner’s Public Relations department. Taglined, "Some Men Are Born to Be Heroes," the film tells the story of how close Steve Jobs came to beating Bill at his own game by mimicking his moves, imitating his code, and stealthily planning night ops for hostile morning takeovers.

Crucial to Gates’s success is the public relations machine that pumps him up to heroic proportions in the country’s eyes so that, despite his own cowering fear and deep internal insecurity, he is forced to live up to all that the papers print about him. In the film, Gates is represented by Sgt. Vassili Zaitsev, and his public relations man is Commisar Danilov, who turns him into a hero even though he knows he is anything but. Ed Harris, who plays Major Erwin König, is the specialist sent in to take Zaitsev out, only to be undone by a feat of loyalty played by Danilov, the devoted PR man. The crucial fact is that both Zaitsev and Kˆnig have no reputable skill other than "sniping"—computer code for hacking—which they do endlessly, annoyingly, measuring small gains against each other until one of them finally wins a pyrrhic victory. If Apple had won, or even thought they had a chance of winning, they would have released the same film, but titled it Threatening Our Jobs.

If only Gates would do the same for critical reviews of his software, we’d all be happier. The propagandizing rhetoric of this film wants us to be glad that we chose Windows 2000 over Mac OS 9 (or whatever version they’re up to). For Enemy at the Gates is not so much a consumer-pleasing product placement campaign as it is an anti-government film, relentlessly hacking away at the federal government’s unfair ideological hypocrisy that seeks to curtail the Microsoft monopoly while simultaneously creating all its documents, internal memos, and e-mails on Microsoft code. "Without me" Bill Gates is shrieking, "you people couldn’t even prosecute this case!" And, in that regard at least, it is a film that tells a deep truth.

The fantasy element in the film is the love interest. True, Bill Gates did finally get married, but Melinda Gates is no Rachel Weisz, and their initial tryst was nothing like the intense, passionate, unavoidably erotic scene that the film gives us. Instead, Weisz’s character is here used as a machismo-building device, to make us believe that Gate’s romantic interests could conceivably cause jealousy among other men. They can’t, and they won’t, and we know it.

But let him have his fun, because after all, even this interpretation of his PR department’s smear campaign film was composed on a Windows-based machine, and the money I make on it will be used to romance my very real, and very erotic lover.

Heh-heh . . . Suck it up, Billy boy.

posted by editor ::: November 02, 2001 ::: philms :::