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Defiance
BLU-RAY disk
06.09.2009 By: J.A. Hamilton
Defiance order download
Director:
Edward Zwick

Actors:
Daniel Craig
Liev Schreiber
Jamie Bell

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In a time when being Jewish meant death at the hands of the Germans, three brothers rally their kinsmen into the Belarussian Forests, determined to regroup, fight back and most importantly survive.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
At first, I found myself torn with DEFIANCE. On the one hand, we’ve got a beautifully shot, well written, fantastically acted story, but on the other hand, I can’t help but ask myself when is enough going to be enough? I’m not trying to sound insensitive here, but I first learned about Hitler and his war on the Jewish community back in Junior High School with THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, and then SCHINDLER’S LIST soon after. But now it seems like we get AT LEAST five flicks a year on the subject. Hitler was a tyrant, and the persecution of the Jewish people a sin, but this story has been told, re-told, re-booted and refurbished to the point that we’re now left with a slew of Titanic-esque scenarios that to me, feels like Hollywood milking a travesty for every dollar they can squeeze out.

Of course, in that regard, Hollywood HAS gotten smarter. They’re now pulling out the “big guns” when it comes to actors, with Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber helming this battle. Both actors were at the top of their game here, and upon seeing their hot and cold brotherly antics, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Schreiber and Jackman’s unique bond in WOLVERINE. And while we’re at it, I found the story quickly started to feel like ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES (with guns instead of bows). Craig (like Robin) even had the sheriff’s white horse...until they ate it. The script itself blew me away, and not only with its impressive dialogue, but because they were able to pull of as much humor as they did. Not exactly an easy task in this case.

Director Edward Zwick is no stranger to intense, awe inspiring flicks (THE LAST SAMURAI, THE SIEGE) and continues to turn up the heat with incredibly well shot battle sequences and surreal landscapes (some of those shots in the woods were nothing short of breathtaking, especially in HD). He also manages to capture the impending sense of dread amongst the people. The dire tone and gloomy score work to enhance the horrific reality of the story unfolding around them. When this film winds up for a punch, it goes for the jugular. And because of the often brutal subject matter, it makes quite and impact (the beating of the captured German soldier being one of the more powerful scenes).

Much like VALKYRIE (which I watched out of drunkenness, boredom and my love of Tom Cruise), I was really drawn into DEFIANCE, finding it to be arguably the best film of it’s kind to date. Sure, it was a little slow at times, and probably could’ve had fifteen or so minutes trimmed off the runtime, but the action was gritty and believable, the sense of imminent danger kept my eyes wide open and glued to the screen, and the brother’s sheer resolve and willingness to find hope where there was only death was enough to pull even the coldest person’s heart strings. And what makes this one by far more enjoyable when compared to all the others (besides seeing them fight back), was getting a (relatively) happy ending for a change.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by Director Edward Zwick: Zwick seems like a down to earth, cool guy. I liked how he explained giving Alexa Davalos (who you may have also recognized as the “grown up” Kyra from CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK) her part over more famous actresses in light of an “on the spot” office interview.

Defiance: Return to the Forrest: The director explains where he found the source material and how he instantly fell in love with the story. I found it interesting how he tries to link this tale to the biblical trials of the Jewish people back in Moses’s day.

Children of the Otriad: The Families Speak: The children and granddaughter of Craig’s character Tuvia speak of his honor and valor. It’s very moving to see so many people giving praise to this family, even after so long.

Scoring Defiance: A quick look at the making of this film’s emotional score. The violin was the sound of their culture, and thus they wanted it at the center of story. I’ve always found the violin to be a hauntingly powerful instrument.

Bielski Partisan Survivors: A compilation of photos taken by the director in 2008 of the remaining survivors. I can imagine this dug up a lot of old wounds for them.

Trailers: We get both theatrical film trailers. Similar, but equally cool.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
So despite my reservations about the content’s overuse, I can’t deny the raw intensity of this film. I liked it far more than expected. Still, it’s a movie you’ll probably only watch once, so I suggest you either rent or catch it via our “video on demand” feature (just make sure it’s the Blu ray version).

Extra Tidbit: If Hitler were alive today, the lineup to kick him in the nuts would be so long you could probably see it from space.
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