Director: Ed Zwick
Cast: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie
Bell, Alexa Davalos, Allan Corduner, Mark Feuerstein, Tomas Arana, Iben Hjejle, Jacek Koman, George MacKay
RunTime: 2 hrs 15 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://www.defiancemovie.com/
Opening Day: 5 February 2009
on an extraordinary true story, "Defiance" is an
epic tale of family, honor, vengeance and salvation in World
War II. The year is 1941 and the Jews of Eastern Europe are
being massacred by the thousands. Managing to escape certain
death, three brothers take refuge in the dense surrounding
woods they have known since childhood. There they begin their
desperate battle against the Nazis. Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber
and Jamie Bell star as brothers who turn a primitive struggle
to survive into something far more consequential – a
way to avenge the deaths of their loved ones by saving thousands
Edward Zwick continues giving backhanded Hollywood compliments to oppressed minorities in the “Defiance”, headlined by the newly minted A-list presence in Daniel Craig as a blond-haired, blue-eyed saviour to hunted Jews in 1941 Belarus. Just as in “Glory”, “The Last Samurai” and most egregiously in “Blood Diamond,” Zwick finds little but potent ways of insulting his through a veil of good intentions and it doesn’t show signs of stopping here. But surprisingly, Zwick manages to create a grim world here based on true events and characters – making it more than a little affecting – set in the claustrophobic forests, brought down to earth with swirling ideas about the price of survival in a time hardly worth living in.
For all its over-the-top pitches, it is stupendously manipulative in how much effective pathos it wrings out of its leading men. It revolves around a dynamic of quiet anger and deep convictions to what four brothers believe should be the best way to lead their people into the brighter light that they know has to shine one of these days. The eldest, Tuvia Bielski (Craig) advocates an agrarian society that depends on a more defensive approach of elusive subsistence of growing, stealing and rationing food. His two youngest siblings, Asael Bielski (Jamie Bell) and Aron Bielski (George MacKay) join this form of resistance. However, Zus Bielski (Liev Schreiber) – by far the most appealing character – chooses to fight back with the help of the scheming remnant Soviet Army, at times even letting his desire for continued vengeance obscure the idea of his identity in a period when that’s all that is needed to be exterminated.
At its most melancholic, “Defiance” asks questions of the deep paradoxes in being Jewish. It questions, quite relevantly, the necessity of killing in order to survive – a raid on Nazis is juxtaposed with a joyous wedding of young Jews – and the expendability of present humanity to preserve future generations. But for its entire story’s intrinsic worth, Zwick does bring a sledgehammer approach to most of the proceedings. When Nazis or Jews aren’t getting gunned down, the silence is filled with rousing speeches on valour in the face of adversity, romantic gazes and religious iconography (courtesy of an old rabbi) of Moses/Tuvia leading his people towards the Promised Land. It does draw away the idea of victimisation and fatality of a Nazi period film but doesn’t do very much to create a lasting intent of realism, just the pursuit of idealism.
(Overly cooked melodramatics tempered with an inherently rousing story)
Review by Justin Deimen