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Defiance (2009) Director Edward Zwick 25 January 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Uncategorized.
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Defiance, like most of Zwicks other efforts like The Last Samurai and Glory is a Hollywood blockbuster with a message. Zwick is clearly an intelligent filmmaker and appreciates that perhaps the best way for a story as important as this to reach a mass audience is in the slightly dumbed down guise of the action flick, but thankfully Defiance retains enough integrity to be a more than worthy vehicle for the tale of the Bielski Ostriad.

It is an amazing story which I feel almost ashamed for not knowing. A community of Jewish citizens managed to hide and survive in the forests of Belarussia thanks to the efforts of the four Bielski brothers, in particular Tuvia (Daniel Craig) who takes on the role of leader of the small community. The Ostriad as they become known start off by levying food off locals peacefully in order to survive but before long they find themselves attacking small groups of German soldiers and allying themselves with the Russian forces also holed up in the forest. Middle brother Zus (Liev Schrieber) however is dissatisfied with the way the Ostriad is being run, too much running and too little fighting for his liking so after a particularly nasty exchange with brother Tuvia Zus joins the Russian reserves.

The rest of the film plays out pretty much as a story of survival not only survival of the inevitable German attack but survival from dissent within the community itself. Events play out pretty much as you will probably expect but there are some quite surprising moments thrown in (in particular the uncompromising actions of Tuvia at times) that remind you this isn’t an entirely stupid Hollywood effort.

Craig, Schrieber and Jamie Bell are all serviceable in their roles. None of them really shine (though kudos has to go to Schrieber for his excellent and extensive use of Russian throughout the film) but there are some supporting roles which deserve a mention such as
Mark Feuerstein’s Isaac Malbin, an intellectual who is always there for Tuvia.

The film is well made, the music stirring where necessary but the best thing about Defiance is its story. As unremarkable as the plot developments within the film are the story of the Bielski Ostiad is one everyone should hear, a story of real heroism in the face of almost certain death. Sometimes Hollywood can serve history it seems.

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