Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe escape into the Belarussian forests, where they join Russian resistance fighters and endeavor to build a village in order to protect themselves and about 1,000 Jewish non-combatants.
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On the run and hiding in the deep forests of the then German occupied Poland and Belorussia (World War II), the four Bielski brothers find the impossible task of foraging for food and weapons for their survival. They live, not only with the fear of discovery, contending with neighboring Soviet partisans and knowing whom to trust but also take the responsibility of looking after a large mass of fleeing Polish Jews from the German war machine. Women, men, children, the elderly and the young alike are all hiding in makeshift homes in the dark, cold and unforgiving forests in the darkest times of German occupied Eastern Europe. Written by
Defiance (2008) tells the story of the Bielski brothers who constructed a community of their own in the Belarussian forests during the Second World War and fought against Nazi Germans in the process. The film is based on a true story which I'm not very familiar with but I'm sure the Hollywood studios have had their hand in the mix because the finished story here has a very overly "heroic" theme in it and the story feels very one-sided and "simplified for the masses". There's multiple scenes which try to show different sides to the story and the events at hand and try to throw some shades of gray into the otherwise black and white way of seeing the world but all those scenes suffer from a heavy underlining and they only scratch the surface of the issues that should have been explored more deeply - like the tension between the campers, the nature of the Nazi soldiers, the nature of the Jews etc. This all ends up to the fact that the story told here is a very shallow one and feels through-out very "Hollywood-ish".
It's no surprise that the story feels so shallow: Edward Zwick's (director, co-writer) isn't the most gifted man working in Hollywood. He seems to do the same movie over and over again; The Last Samurai (2003), Blood Diamond (2006) and Defiance feel very much the same when it comes down to the theme and nature of the stories and the films. The films even have the same gritty look that admittedly works.
The cinematography, editing and the visual look (with sets, wardrobe etc.) are the film's strongest sides. Everything looks appropriate and the editing grabs you along for the ride. Edward knows how to make interesting looking Hollywood films, I just wish he would give as much attention to the story and the dialog as he gives to the visuals.
Because the dialog and acting (along with the story) were the things I had the most issues with. The dialog is horrible: why, oh why did they decide to make the characters speak bad English with a heavy "East European" -accent? Why not make them speak English right or make the whole film with the other languages and put some subtitles on it? I mean, they speak horrible and barely understandable English to each other – does the accent bring some value to the film? Does it make the film feel more original or what's the point? Or were they just hiding their lacking writing skills by producing simple and horrible sounding dialog? At least it's a nice way to get a way with it...
Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber as the Bielski bros. make the best they can with the bad dialog written for them and they manage to do a decent job with it, the rest of the cast doesn't really deserve any praise.
Defiance is a very mediocre and uninspiring film that lacks any real thought or emotion. It looks good but it doesn't have anything to say or comment on anything – it just "is". The short action scenes aren't very interesting and the CGI used in them won't be bringing any awards home. The film relies heavily on drama and the interaction between the characters which all is ruined by the garbage they call dialog. Could have been a way better film. 2/4
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