Defiance Review

Hey there folks. Thanks for checking out our Defiance Review.

When Daniel Craig burst onto the collective consciousness as the newest James Bond (and in my opinion, the best one ever), I instantly become interested in anything he was involved in. Heck, I was even up to seeing him in The Golden Compass and The Invasion (ouch… painful memory). So when I heard about him staring in a true story about Jewish warriors who lived and hid in the woods during the Nazi occupation of his homeland… I thought “Hell yeah”! My excitement got even bigger when I heard that Edward Zwick, director of Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai, was helming the project.

As Ricky Gervais pointed out at the Golden Globes the other night: “The only problem with holocaust films is that you can’t put a funny gag reel on the DVD”. So true. Not a lot of laughs expected.

THE GENERAL IDEA

The synopsis for Defiance reads something like this: “Inspired by a true story, director Edward Zwick’s epic World War II drama Defiance tells the tale of three Jewish Eastern European brothers (Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell) who narrowly escape certain death at the hands of the Nazis, subsequently vowing to avenge the deaths of their loves ones by launching a desperate battle against the forces that seek to exterminate their entire race. The year is 1941, and the setting is Nazi-occupied Poland. The Final Solution is in full effect, and the Jews of Eastern Europe are being slaughtered wholesale. Tuvia (Craig), Zus (Schreiber), and Asael (Bell) have miraculously managed to escape into the dense surrounding forest. Having played in these woods since childhood, the brothers have a distinct advantage over their adversaries, and soon decide that simply surviving is not enough. In order to make a difference, they must take action, but in order to take action they will need support. As whispers of their bravery take wind, others like them appear determined to lay their lives on the line for the cause of freedom. Tuvia has become the de facto leader of the group, but he’s still somewhat reluctant to take on such a heavy responsibility and his brother Zus expresses concern that his idealistic plan will ultimately bring about the group’s downfall. With winter setting in, everyone works to create a functioning community that will help them endure the frigid months that lie ahead, and Asael reluctantly finds himself caught in the crossfire of his older siblings’ rivalry. Is it possible to keep faith alive in a time when the world seems devoid of humanity and survival becomes a way of life?”

THE GOOD

There is something inherently powerful about great human tragedy that brings out the very best in human beings. It seems that when faced with our most daunting challenges that the true strength of the human spirit, the human will to survive, the human will to be… human, truly comes out. Therein lay the power of holocaust films. The movies are set against one of the most tragic eras of human history, which ultimately sets the stage for some of the greatest human stories of courage, endurance, kindness and resolve. This is were the main strength of Defiance shines. The filmmakers make my gut hurt seeing the horror and the pain and the loss all these people suffered… but in that horror, in that pain and in that loss something is birthed out of them that inspires me. It is a cold reminder about just how small most of our daily problems really are that we complain about so much and it shames me when I see stories of people facing so much more than me exhibiting so much more strength than me. More of us need these sorts of reminders I think.

When you have these sorts of human stories, it’s essential that the performers bring out that humanity. On this point I can’t say enough about the performances by both Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. The raw mixture of pure fear, pure anger, pure sorrow, pure rage all at different times and in different mixtures allowed me as a viewer to really FEEL their circumstances which allowed to me to them experience the story on an entirely different level. Damn, I can’t wait to see Schreiber as Sabertooth in the upcoming Wolverine movie.

One of the things that often poses a road bump for films like this is that the director gives in to the temptation to make the good guys pure good, and the bad guys completely inhuman. Fortunately the director resists this simple way and embraces the full humanity of the Bielski brothers… showing them as heroes, yes. Showing them as brave… yes. But also showing them as flawed. Real men facing the real hardship and struggles both morally and physically and faced with choices they never thought they’d have to make… and sometimes making the wrong ones… doing the wrong things. This to me made the characters even more relatable and inspiring.

THE BAD

Unfortunately, Defiance sort of misrepresents itself. The ads and synopsis tell us and give the impression that it’s about a group of warriors who take to the woods to fight the Germans. That’s not really the case. It’s about a group of scared and desperate survivors who gather together in the woods to survive and hide. Some of the ads give you the impression that you’re about to see a Jewish version of “Red Dawn“, but that really isn’t the case here.

The film is guilty of some repetitiveness. For example, I didn’t really feel the need to see a love story and interest between one of the brothers and a woman in the new hidden village. I certainly didn’t need to see a love story and interest between TWO of the brothers and women in the new hidden village. But I just had nothing left to do but roll my eyes when we had to see love interests with ALL THREE brothers. Yes, I get it… finding beauty in harsh circumstances… I get it. Oh… you didn’t hear me and you felt the need to do it twice. Ok, I get it. Oh… you still didn’t hear me and felt I was so stupid you had to show it to me 3 times. Gaaaa.

In the same vein of repetitiveness, there was a very powerful scene when new survivors would wander into the hidden village brining news of the Germans killing Jews in a certain town. A current member of the village who had loved ones in that town would hear the news and start to cry and weep. It was a solid device that hammered home the extent of the circumstances these people were in. However… about 10 minutes later they did the EXACT SAME THING. New people arrive with news of German atrocities in a town, and someone with loved ones in the town get a scene of their weeping. THEN IT HAPPENED AGAIN about 20 minutes later. Yes… I get it… move on.

OVERALL

Defiance is an inspiring story about bravery and humanity in the midst of the worst of human circumstances. Solid performances by the leads giving real substance the characters and overall giving a sense of hope. The film has weaknesses in it’s execution and repetitiveness of certain themes that become distracting and it’s really not the movie it advertises itself to be. Still, a solid film that I would recommend. Overall I give Defiance a 7.5 out of 10.

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18 thoughts on “Defiance Review

  1. It is very much highly action movie. Defiance movie is a thrilling action war drama, directed by Edward Zwick, based on a true story about three brothers. Three Jewish brothers Tuvia , Zus , and Asael miraculously escape death at the hands of the Nazis. They find refuge in the dense forests of their neighborhood, which has been their play ground since childhood. I watched this movie. You can also Download Defiance Movie

  2. well its a good movie and its interesting to know about the existence of such a group which survived the Nazis tyranny.. it was a bit dragged at times.. but overall worth a watch!

  3. They were not warriors battling the Nazi’s, more accurately they were battling for survival, defying the Nazi’s insistance on systematic destruction of a culture, a people, and a way of life. They simply fought back to live; for food, for medicine, warmth, and to remain hidden. Zus came to the same realization after openly battling the Nazi’s with the partisians, who, as the movie went on, appeared just as bigoted as the Nazi’s. Zus realized that all he really had was his family, his culture, and his people. This wasn’t an action movie, not really even a war movie. It was a story that occured during war and what it took to survive it, and how community and fraternity can still exist in conditions of barbarism and inhumanity. By the way, the MOIVIE WAS NOT SET IN POLAND, IT WAS BELORUSE OR BELO-RUSSIA OR WHITE RUSSIA. The movie was filmed in Lithuania and they asked the actors to adopt an eastern polish accent when speaking in english. Current day BElorus is one lof the last remaining dictatorships in south eastern europe

  4. Hi John:

    Not a bad review. However, I think you missed the broad strokes here. Tuvia’s spell of reluctant leadership was mirrored with a vaccilating goal, or mission of survival. Initially they wanted to stick together as three brothers, and only three brothers, a quick surgical group that easily moves and remains hidden. The friction between Zus andd Tuvia escalated as more and more Jews wandering the woods found the brothers and the origins of an almost tribal community. Tuvia exacted revenge on his family’s murderer and the experience left Zus hungry for more blood. Tuvia was less and less inspired by the blood. The friction between the brothers culminated when Zus joined the Russian Partisans battling the Nazi’s and Tuvia stayed with the growing community and stated, “our revenge will be to live” in an almost Braveheart-like scene with Craig riding a white horse during the speach. The brothers were close and cared for each other, they merely had different ideas on how to survive and by the end of the movie, Zus came to the same realization that Tuvia did by the beginning of the end of the first act when the brothers parted ways. That realization was that self-preservation wasn’t enough, they lost their family and almost everything else they had, they needed to preserve their culture, their heritage, and while they were not religious Jews, the brothers realized the pragmatic guidance of the torah and old testament. Tuvia almost believed he was the next moses while Zus was much more practical. What they did was great becasue they were initially unwilling, unprepared, and uncertain.

  5. This is a very good movie about some real-life heroes from World War II. In an age when we need to create heroes because there are so few around us, here are some to inspire greatness among the rest of us. The film is well-acted and, although longish, it moves fairly smoothly.

  6. Defiance was great. It was exciting, inspirational, and emotional. It was a great example of how an actionmovie should be. This movie should be remembered with Saints and Soldiers, Valkrye, Saving Private Ryan, and Band of Brothers as one of the best World War 2 films. At

  7. I agree about the misleading advertising. Maybe they thought there wasn’t an audience for the movie they actually made, which is a shame.

    I disagree about the repetition of having Jews find the community and then report about the deaths of people they knew. It was the repetition that made it so powerful — first of all, that people from widely scattered areas had heard of and managed to find the forest camp, and secondly, that everyone in the camp had friends and relatives who didn’t make it out. As they received this devastating news over and over again, they had to realize how widespread the killing was, and that the survivors were going to be the minority.

  8. not sure if you know this but this story is based on actual events..I was at the premier with the relatives of the real life characters…and I think the repetition was to drive home the point of how many people those evil germans killed.

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