Defiance (2008)

Defiance (2008)
  • Time: 137 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | History
  • Director: Edward Zwick
  • Cast: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell


On the run and hiding in the deep forests of the then German occupied Poland and Belorussia (World War II), the four Bielski brothers find the impossible task of foraging for food and weapons for their survival. They live, not only with the fear of discovery, contending with neighboring Soviet partisans and knowing whom to trust but also take the responsibility of looking after a large mass of fleeing Polish Jews from the German war machine. Women, men, children, the elderly and the young alike are all hiding in makeshift homes in the dark, cold and unforgiving forests in the darkest times of German occupied Eastern Europe.


  • The movie is about a group of Jewish brothers who help a community of Jews against the Germans in WWII. Being interested in WWII, myself, it was good to look at it from a different angle, and not the massive bloody scenes the usual WWII movies are about.

    Both Daniel Craig, and Liev Schreiber deliver a terrific performance as two of the Bielski brothers. I enjoyed watching them work as they fight against the Germans and sickness.

    Since the movie talks about a true story, it really makes you want to put yourself in their shoes, and how great that group of combatants actually was.

    However, the movie is way too long with some scenes that are, also, way too long; and sometimes it just gets boring and made me want to multitask. In addition, some of the secondary characters’ acting wasn’t so great and made me chuckle.

    In the end, I don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t watch this movie.

  • Defiance is based on an extraordinary true story of the Bielski Partisan, a group of WWII Jewish survivors who band together, seeking refuge in the Belarusian forests during the Nazi-occupation of Poland in 1941. They were led by Tuvia Bielski and his brother, Zus.

    When their numbers increased, they built a community, a forest village of sorts that remarkably thrived despite the harrowing circumstances. They smuggled essentials like bread and milk, collected wood to build shelter, and stole weapons to defend themselves from the ruthless Nazis. Some died in sacrifice; others survived to carry on their family name.

    Defiance is adapted from Nechama Tec’s novel of the same name, and is directed by Zwick, a filmmaker with a reputation for making solid pictures that are usually set in historical contexts such as Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai, and Glory. Zwick shifts his focus to WWII for Defiance, doing an effective job in creating a war drama that focuses more on its characters than its battle scenes.

    We are introduced to Tuvia and Zus early in the film played by Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber respectively. Although their performances are decent, Craig is still unable to shake off his Bond persona on screen despite only making two 007 films thus far. Great actors have the ability to dwell deep into their characters such that they exude the proper characterizations that are required of their roles. I am afraid Craig is still far from that level despite his popularity.

    For a war film, Defiance is tame when compared to Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan or Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. Violence is mostly off-the-screen, and gore is almost nonexistent. Yet the battle sequences pack a strong punch, especially during the air-raid scenes where the environment is suddenly tipped on its scale, from peacefully serene to dangerously hostile in an eye-blink.

    Zwick does something cliché during this time: A bomb lands near a lead character, temporary deafening his ear. The sound from the film fades away quickly to be replaced by a high-frequency monotone that simulates the effect of hearing loss. The character is stunned momentarily as he witnesses the death and destruction around him. He is then shoved by a comrade away from a direct hit from another bomb, and regains his hearing. How many times have we seen this in war films since Saving Private Ryan?

    Defiance is nominated for a solitary Oscar for the original score by James Newton Howard which somewhat sounds similar to his Oscar-nominated score for M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Howard’s music neatly complements the visuals which are magnificently cinematographed by the Oscar-nominated Portuguese Eduardo Serra but is still snubbed by the Academy for Defiance.

    The scope of Defiance is smaller than expected, and this is what lets it down slightly. The film shows these survivors as they make from one dire circumstance to another while making themselves comfortable at the same time. In a way it feels predictable and unexciting, and viewers are unable to get the big picture of their achievement during the film. But excellent and steady direction by Zwick pulls the film together during its most vulnerable moments.

    SCORE: 8/10
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