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 one thousand Jewish non-combatants.
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
The revolver Daniel Craig obtained from the friendly farmer, near the start of the film, is a French Army M1873 11mm. Finding ammunition for it would be next to impossible by the time and in the place the film is set. See more »
When Isaac interrupts the rabbi's teaching to warn of the German air raid, production lights are clearly reflected in his glasses for several seconds. See more »
Although I'm not a religious type and know little of any details from the stories of the bible, the parallels this old-fashioned adventure story draws with Moses leading the chosen are unmistakable (although the events depicted here - based on fact, apparently - are on an undeniably smaller scale: instead of a parting of the Red Sea we get a wade through marshland).
Such lofty aspirations leave Ed Zwick's film open to questions about the wisdom of such a decision at best, and ridicule at worst. Needless to say, it's best to take the film's claims of authenticity with a pinch of salt and perhaps to overlook the pretentiousness at its core.
At the end of the day, Defiance is an old-fashioned war film that could easily have been made back in the forties or fifties. The story has been told a thousand times in a thousand different forms, and its' familiarity means the long running time becomes something of a chore. Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber give a good account of themselves as the brothers who find themselves leading a band of Jewish refugees from the Nazis, but the complexities of their relationship are only touched upon, meaning that key moments such as Zus's decision to join the Russian partisans seem to come out of the blue, with no accumulation of incidents to justify his choice.
Most other characters, other than Jamie Bell as the youngest brother, are genre stereotypes: the Jewish teacher, the Jewish intellectual, the stern Russian commander, etc, which lends the entire thing a 'by the numbers' feel that means the audience is never as involved in the refugee's plight as they ought to be. The film has its moments, and often looks beautiful, but you'll watch the end credits with the feeling that you've seen it all before.
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