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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Film Review - Defiance

Defiance (15)

Dir. Edward Zwick (last film 'Blood Diamond' DM rated 8/10)

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

It’s 1941 and the Nazis are on the march rounding up and killing Jews. Defiance is the ‘based on true events’ tale of Jewish brothers Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Live Schreiber), and Asael Beilski (Jamie Bell) who manage to turn the forests of Belarussia into a temporary haven for their people.
Director Edward ‘Blood Diamond’ Zwick goes for a broad stroke depiction of the struggles faced by those staring extermination in the face. You can check off the scenes – Nazis search for Jews, local police aid them, the brothers have their families murdered and swear to begin to fight back… which helps of course if you’ve got the current James Bond on your side!?
You will have seen many aspects of the cliché rich two hours plus before but there is always merit in being reminded of the strength of the human spirit, lest we forget how bad things got for those persecuted by the Nazis. The hardships of starvation, the unrelenting danger of the enemies and their collaborators – there are lots of thought provoking ‘what would you have done’ moments to ponder.
The inspirational elements of the tale of the brothers who came to be remembered as the “Beilski Partisans” attempt to balance out the crushing bleakness of this dark period in history. The wartime suffering is painted brutally, there are some savagely violent encounters and some stock quotable quotes such as ‘Our vengeance is to live’... The effective combat scenes and tenacious Moses-like leading of the people through a flooded marshland whilst being pursued, ramp up the tension – especially as the fates of the brothers are withheld until the end.
Craig does his best in the lead role but is somewhat upstaged by the gutsy Schreiber as his younger brother Zus, who is excellent throughout in a trickier, more nuanced role. Love interests are on hand in the shapely forms of Lilka (Alexa Davalos), Bella (Iben Hjejle) and Riva (Kate Fahy) who all look good despite the challenges of forest dwelling.

Defiance certainly goes for the emotional blackmail juncture at several points and if not based on real events could well be taken as a purely cynical cash in on the horrors faced and the bravery shown by this group of Jews who took the fight back to the Nazis in the own way. So whilst maybe not a classic of the wartime genre, Defiance offers enough to make it a worthwhile reminder of humanity pushed to breaking point and extraordinary valour that can result.

Arbitrary Darkmatters final rating: ööööööö (7)

Darkmatters quick reference guide (new for 2009):

Action 7, Style 7, Babes 7, Comedy 5, Spiritual Enlightenment 7

+ Defiance looks the part - shot in a remote, wooded area in Lithuania, about a hundred miles away from the real location of the Bielski brothers camp....

+ (SPOILER WARNING) Craig gets to take out a platoon of Nazis in the one big firefight - it's very satisfying seeing the enemy on the recieving end of one of their own heavy machine guns...

- One of the guys I saw this with hated it and I thought he'd dig it...

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