Stalingrad, 1942. Political Officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) sees young army recruit Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law) in action and realises that he is just what the Russian people need to inspire them in their fight against the German army. Zaitsev is a natural with a rifle, and Danilov arranges for him to be transferred to a sniper unit, where his actions will be publicised, thus making him into a national hero. But Zaitsev soon begins to feel he cannot live up to Danilov's expectations, and to make matters worse, he and Danilov both fall for the same girl (Rachel Weisz). Meanwhile, the Germans find out about Zaitsev and bring in their own top sniper, Konig (Ed Harris), to engage the young Russian in a deadly battle of wits.