Plot: This is the true story of the four Bielski Brothers, who escape their Nazi-occupied hometown to seek refuge in the Belarusian forest. While hiding from the Nazis, the brothers eventually formed a union with the Soviet Partisans, and organized the rescue of roughly 1,200 Jews from the local ghetto. They eventually constructed a makeshift village where they hoped they could wait out the war, all the while staying one step ahead of the Nazis.
Review: Iím amazed that it took Hollywood this long to make a film about the Bielski brothers. Considering their incredible deeds, one would have thought the brothers would have been immortalized years ago, but for some reason, their story has never been told- until now.
In the hands of Edward Zwick, who seems to specialize in these large scale historical adventure films (GLORY, THE LAST SAMURAI, THE BLOOD DIAMOND), DEFIANCE is a top notch war film, boasting a few really solid performances from Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, & Jamie Bell, who play the three elder Bielski brothers.
I think DEFIANCE will go a long way towards proving Daniel Craigís versatility outside of the James Bond franchise, as I never had any trouble accepting him as a Jewish partisan as opposed to a sauve British superspy. While I hope he sticks with Bond for at least a few more films, I think heíll one day follow in Sean Conneryís footsteps as one of the few actors to successfully escape the typecasting that comes along with that iconic role. Craigís work as the eldest, and most even tempered brother is a bit surprising, as I would have assumed he would have gotten cast as the bad ass middle brother, Zus, but instead that role goes to Schreiber.
In many ways, Schreiber has the more complex role, as he seems less interested in saving lives than slaughtering Nazis, as opposed to his nobler and traditionally heroic kin. To me, Schreiber always seemed like an actor in the Dustin Hoffman mold, but here he proves that heís just as adept at playing the action hero as Craig is, and I canít wait to see how he turns out as Sabertooth is this summerís WOLVERINE.
I also really liked Jamie Bell, as the younger, more inexperienced brother. Itís nice to see Bell finally appear in a good movie, as heís been in a number of stinkers over the last few years (Peter Jacksonís KING KONG, JUMPER), but to his credit, even when the movie was bad, he was always good.
Probably my only beef with DEFIANCE is the over the top musical score by James Newton Howard, whoís usually one of my favorite composers, but here delivers your typical War movie score, meaning that itís alternately too bombastic, melodramatic, or both. Still, this is a relatively small problem, and the score was never bad enough to interfere with my enjoyment of the film.
While itís probably a little too traditional to win any Oscars, DEFIANCE is nonetheless a very well made, dynamic slice of World War II history, and well worth watching. I highly recommend it.