Theatrical Review: Defiance

In 1941, in Nazi occupied Eastern Europe near the Belarussian Forests, four Jewish brothers, Tuvia, Zus, Asael and Aron Bielski flee to the forests to hide after discovering their parents killed after a hunt for Jews. The brothers survive by their wits and very soon, they take more in with them, beginning construction of a community deep within the forest, hidden from the Nazis. The oldest brothers, Tuvia and Zus soon come to a conflict between themselves as to whether they hide from the Nazis or join the fight with Russian resistance fighters, with Tuvia staying with the camp and Zus going off to fight, and eventually their paths cross again, as the settlement works hard to survive, soon growing ever larger.

This true story is the basis for the film Defiance from director Edward Zwick, who’s past films have included Glory, The Siege, The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond and it’s a truly inspiring story (at least what’s shown here), and just something to me anyway in that I haven’t heard more about this before.

Now while this starts off telling you it’s a true story, they do play around with the actual facts, giving just a little play to the fact that the Bielskis were always in trouble with the law and that their group did some pretty awful things in order to survive, and I have to wonder if Zwick actually filmed more around this or not. Now as I said above, I knew little of these facts, sand originally came away from this thinking a few nobler things about the Bielskis, and I’m still going to recommend the film, but it does make me wonder if there was more that was shot that wasn’t as rosy. I hope there was and hope further that it might be on the eventual DVD release down the road making for a movie that isn’t quite as black and white as this is.

What’s here makes for a good and inspiring movie, and had they shot this with more of the real things done by the Bielskis, I think it could’ve made this even more effective, though nowhere near as affirming as what a Hollywood picture would be.

Daniel Craig and Liev Schrieber head up the cast as respectively Tuvia and Zus. These guys are great together, they have some real chemistry and I’d actually hope that maybe down the road they might team up again in another film. Craig is always solid gold, but after finding out a little more of the real facts, I have to give more praise to Liev Schreiber here, as his Zus is a lot closer to what was there for real.

Initially, coming out of the film, I truly thought it was exceptional stuff. But after finding out a few more of the facts, I’d really wished Zwick and crew would’ve done more with that. I’d still recommend seeing this, but take the words “This is a true story.” with a grain of salt and maybe use this as the entryway to find out more of what really happened.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

25. January 2009 by Darren Goodhart
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