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
Exciting, Inspirational, Craig and Scheiber are Fine
"Defiance" is a very entertaining, exciting, suspenseful, and inspirational film about a tough topic: the Holocaust. Its many action sequences are well-paced and well-motivated. You know exactly why Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) breaks into a home and points a gun at a man in front of his family. Daniel Craig and Live Schreiber are terrific as Tuvia and Zus Bielski, who lead a band of Jewish forest partisans during World War Two, thus saying over a thousand lives.
The movie is not perfect. Characters speak English with Slavic accents. In other scenes, they speak Russian or Belarusian. Craig and Schreiber manage very good Slavic accents, both when speaking English and when speaking the Slavic languages, but Craig occasionally lapses into his English accent when speaking English. Female characters are not particularly well drawn, or given much to do. While this film is very good, it doesn't have the production values to be a timeless classic like "Schindler's List." The movie is controversial. Most of the controversies are shallow relative to the most important facts at hand. Many of those attacking this movie have axes to grind, including current events in the Middle East or feuds between Poles and Jews. The most important fact is this: the Nazis committed a genocide of six million Jews. In the midst of this Satanic nightmare, the Bielskis managed to save over a thousand Jews. That's the main, and absolutely true, point here, and it should not be lost in bickering over details.
Compared to other treatments of the Holocaust, this film is fair. It doesn't show Slavic peasants as uniformly Jew-hating collaborators. Nazis, not Slavic peasants, were the authors and perpetrators of the Holocaust. Some occupied peoples collaborated, often out of fear and for financial gain or as payback for old grudges. Some occupied peoples did everything they could to help Jews, as does a Belarusian peasant in this film.
The Bielskis were not immaculate. They did summarily execute captured Germans, as shown here. They did raid peasants for provisions, as shown here. They did work with the Soviets, but so did Uncle Sam. Remember that photo of FDR and Churchill smiling with Stalin at Yalta. The Polish IPN institute is investigating charges that members of the Bielski partisans, but not the Bielskis themselves, participated in the 1943 Soviet massacre of 128 people in Naliboki. Aron, the youngest Bielski brother, was, in 2007, accused of defrauding an elderly Polish woman. These failures of the Bielski brothers to be perfect in no way lessen their achievement, any more than any failure to be perfect lessen any hero's achievement. Again, in the face of genocide, the Bielski brothers managed to save over a thousand people. Were they perfect? No. Were they admirable, heroic, and worth learning about? Absolutely yes.
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