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Defiance (2008)

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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.


Edward Zwick


Clayton Frohman (screenplay), Edward Zwick (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2,900 ( 423)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Daniel Craig ... Tuvia Bielski
Liev Schreiber ... Zus Bielski
Jamie Bell ... Asael Bielski
Alexa Davalos ... Lilka Ticktin
Allan Corduner ... Shimon Haretz
Mark Feuerstein ... Isaac Malbin
Tomas Arana ... Ben Zion Gulkowitz
Jodhi May ... Tamara Skidelsky
Kate Fahy Kate Fahy ... Riva Reich
Iddo Goldberg ... Yitzhak Shulman
Iben Hjejle ... Bella
Martin Hancock ... Peretz Shorshaty
Ravil Isyanov ... Viktor Panchenko
Jacek Koman ... Konstanty 'Koscik' Kozlowski
George MacKay ... Aron Bielski


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 Cinema_Fan

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Freedom begins with an act of defiance! See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | German | Russian

Release Date:

16 January 2009 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Desafío See more »

Filming Locations:



Box Office


$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$123,513, 4 January 2009, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$28,644,813, 30 April 2009

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$51,155,219, 31 December 2008
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (extended)

Sound Mix:

SDDS | Dolby Digital | DTS


Color | Black and White (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The German tank, which appears near the end of the film, is a replica of a Panzer III, which was created by modifying a Swiss Panzer 61 tank. It was one of two such vehicles previously used in Enemy at the Gates (2001). See more »


Starting scenes shows German soldier filming the activities of others using a Bell and Howell Eyemo turret camera, used by the American military, he should have been using a Arriflex 35 II that came out in 1937 and was in wide use by German Army. See more »


Tuvia Bielski: I thought you were dead.
Shamon Haretz: I am at least half dead.
See more »


Referenced in The Daily Show: Daniel Craig (2009) See more »


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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Lacking the much needed emotional and visceral punch to propel it off the screen.
16 May 2009 | by OtobokeSee all my reviews

Oppression, human injustice, cruelty, war and rebellion are themes that director Edward Zwick is now more than at home with. With Defiance which sets about to combine most elements from the director's previous works into a somewhat epic, somewhat dramatised account of a true story from the second World War, Zwick strives for greatness yet never achieves anything as such. The problem isn't that Defiance is a bad movie by any means—no, the flaw inherent to much of Defiance's downfall is simply that it neglects to evoke the emotion and attention required of the viewer. It seems throughout that the director simply assumes rather than depicts his story's self-importance. Of course by its very nature, Defiance is a hearty tale built around the overwhelming good that can come of a collective passion for facing adversity with courage and virtue—yet Zwick instead of portraying anything remotely likened to these attributes instead submits a work that feels half-baked and lacking the much needed emotional and visceral punch to propel it off the screen where it unfortunately suffers from a distinct lack of focus on its greater parts. Indeed, while Zwick may be at home with such bitter ingredients of humanity's condition, one has to wonder whether he has gotten too comfortable to be able to truly express them on-screen.

If there is one dominant highlight to Defiance however, it is not through the movie's most overt examples of struggle in the many over-the-top action sequences and gun fights, but simply though the drama that permits a grim shadow to overtake all other elements of the feature. As a result, Defiance often struggles to stay afloat in spite of its heavy-handed themes, yet when deeply involving in developing and allowing moments to envelop the viewer, the movie regains its sense of conviction even if it soon dissipates not long after. This focus on human survival and spirit often comes in the form of leader Tuvia Bielski's (Daniel Craig) legion of Jewish non-combatant refuges rescued from the oppression of Germany's invasion of Eastern Europe. While Craig himself is notably off-key here with many moments that border on jarringly appalling, the remainder of the cast more often than not manage to bring with them the sense of humanity and passion that the screenplay sadly lacks. Zwick, at times, neglects to fully capitalise on these attributes and instead shifts the direction of the movie towards more obvious forms of struggle, yet there remains a key motif present within the feature to keep it above water.

The action scenes as they stand, despite their insistence on irksomely showing up at all the wrong times, are nevertheless solid and exactly what you would come to expect from director Zwick. Echoing his previous features which range from being overtly action-based to a much more Defiance¬-like "drama with action" stories, this outing for the film-maker pulls out all the stops in crafting somewhat exciting depictions of gunfights and air raids that never take things too far into the glamorised Hollywood domain. Remaining true to the script's realistic, gritty nature based upon actual events, Defiance will more than likely please those looking for a war movie with a little depth rather than vice versa—indeed, the excitement too often overshadows any emotions evoked by other segments within the movie, but only ever distractingly so.

When the final credits roll, despite several moments of compelling character drama or action—despite the many stark and breath-taking images that Zwick inflicts upon you—despite such moments, Defiance can't quite escape the fact that it lacks any drive or momentum. The result is a feature that looks like its doing plenty, sounds like its saying a lot and moves exactly as such; but simply does not feel quite as invigorating. To say that Zwick's work here failed to compel me as much as it should have considering its premise and source material would be a grave understatement—Defiance tells an important, true-to-life account of a dark period in recent humanity's struggle to live with itself brimming with gritty realisations of these themes. Yet with a script that fails to give its performers anything of substantive quality to work with, an overlong, overbearing runtime and a barrage of undercooked characters and establishments of atmosphere or tone other than solid grey bleak abandonment; Defiance is too grim for its own good and eventually crumbles under the weight of its own ambition. For what should be an uplifting and revitalising tale steeped in pathos, Defiance is instead only sporadically engaging and lacking in the required heart or passion needed to truly convey the core of its own message.

  • A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)

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