Old 01-02-2009, 05:37 PM

Defiance (2008)

Fifteen years after Spielberg gave us his masterpiece "Schindler's List" comes Edward Zwick's "Defiance." It is a somewhat similar tale, but in a much different setting. While you may be easily reminded of "Schindler's List," Zwick gives his film a life of its own, with characters that are not easily forgettable. He dives right into the heart of the matter, right into our basic need, the need to survive.

Based on a true story, "Defiance" tells the story of a Jewish family: Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), and their two brothers. During the German occupation of Poland, they all escape into the Belarussian forest to escape capture. Their numbers soon grow larger as more and more Jews join their group. Pretty soon, there are hundreds of them. They must find a way to protect themselves from the Nazis while finding enough food to keep themselves alive. This leads to confrontations, not only with the Nazis, but also within the camp as food and tempers run short.

This was quite an emotional film to watch. We watch these people go through horrible times as they have everything taken away from them, forcing them to flee their homes and live in the woods, barely eking by with what little food they have. The film tells not only of how they survive, but also how they make their new lives in their new home.

Not long after beginning their lives in the forest, many of the inhabitants discover that their spouses are dead or missing. Therefore they begin having "forest wives/husbands." They all cling to the hope that they will survive and make an old life like the ones they had before the Germans invaded, but many of them also see that it could be a long time before that happens, so they begin establishing new lives in the forest.

Some of the best scenes in the film were when the Jews were forced to face their own humanity as food becomes scarce and command decisions are questioned. They don't want to become like the Nazi dogs hunting them, but they don't know how they will be able to survive with what little they have in their possession.

One of these pivotal scenes is when one of the food hunters challenges Tuvia's policy of equal shares of food by giving the other hunters larger portions. Faced with an impossible decision, Tuvia does what he believes he must to retain command and help the others to survive. Was it truly a command decision or is this way of living beginning to affect him more than he realizes?

One of the things I would have liked to see is more development of the filial relationship between Tuvia and Zus. It seemed like they were only together a short time before Zus runs off to join a nearby group of Russian resistance fighters. We do see Zus again several times, but that relationship never gets any deeper. As a matter of fact, the relationship between all four brothers could have used more developing, but especially between these two.

I was very satisfied with the performances in this film. I was glad to see that Daniel Craig was able to break away from his Bond persona and create an original character that looked just as rugged. Liev Schreiber always gives what can be described as a very "plain" performance, and here is no exception, but I think he did a decent job with his character.

Director Edward Zwick is no stranger to films involving war, but aside from the war element, he also has a tendency to explore different cultures in his films. In "Glory," he explores African-American culture by telling the story of the first all-black volunteer company. In "The Last Samurai," he explores Japanese/Samurai culture through the eyes of a captured U.S. army soldier. Now, in "Defiance," he explores Jewish culture through the eyes of a group of desperate Jews who are simply trying to survive.

The screenplay by Clayton Frohman and Edward Zwick is not exactly strong in dialogue, but makes up for it in its action and its powerful story. The old saying works perfectly here: "Actions speak louder than words." That is very true, not only for the screenplay, but also for these people. Their brave actions in defending their right to live speak louder than anything they could have ever said. 3.5/4 stars.
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Old 01-03-2009, 05:46 AM
Cheers for the review, am really looking forward to this film.
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Old 01-19-2009, 08:53 PM
Defiance - 8/10

Defiance is the latest film from director Edward Zwick. Zwick gets quite a bit of flack for not putting enough substance into his films, but I never usually find the "lack of substance" in his films to be necessarily a horrible thing. Zwick tells stories like they are in a very entertaining manner. It's not about extreme depth or complexity, it's about taking exciting, important events (true or fictional), putting them on screen and making them very interesting and entertaining. That's not to say he doesn't have ANY substance in his films. Often his films deliver a solid message that is either subtle or not-so subtle depending on the film. With Defiance he takes an extremely interesting, exciting and moving story and does a really good job with it. But not only was the film entertaining, I also found it to have a little more meat to it than some of Zwick's previous efforts. Zwick explores greed, propaganda, competition, anger, revenge and justice, among other things, all in fine detail. The performances are solid all around. Craig and Schreiber are both very good and their competitive relationship was really interesting to see unfold. Another subplot in the film that I found really interesting was when some of the Jews were trying to overthrow Craig's character. Overall, Defiance is a very interesting, entertaining film that is well-acted and directed. It's not without its flaws though. Some of the stuff was a bit improbable and a bit cliche. I imagine much of the film is fictitious in its storytelling as there is no way some of these things could be true. But definitely a solid film that I highly recommend.
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Old 01-20-2009, 02:32 PM
Great historical action flick with good performances from Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell. I loved the story, the setting, the characters and their relationships (particularly Craig and Schreiber playing brothers with conflicting views on how to handle their situation), and how the movie portrayed the struggle of Jews trying to survive the Nazis in a forest. It has good action, drama, and even a little romance thrown in for kicks.

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Old 03-27-2009, 02:27 AM

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