Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Defiance: Movie Review

Defiance: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell
Director: Edward Zwick
1941 Belorussia.
As the Nazis round up the Jews, a quartet of brothers seek refuge in a nearby forest, after their father is slaughtered on their farm.
Before they know it, other survivors have found the home the Bielski brothers have set up in the forest - and desperate for an end to their persecution, they join them.
However, numbers begin to swell and a community develops - a community desperate to survive the ongoing attacks and desperate to eat.
But as the Nazis grow ever closer, there's a split in the Bielski brothers' ranks - will they fight against the Nazis or will their fight be one of survival?
Both Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber are all steely determination as brothers Tuvia and Zus - and their fractious relationship and ideals are conveyed well by the pair - and Jamie Bell is passionate as Asael Bielski.
However, Defiance is not an easy watch - and not just because of its subject material, based as it is on a true story
The first hour is slow - and while the brothers' characters develop, it is at the expense of some of the pace of the film overall.
Daniel Craig does that thing he does with his piercing blue eye stare (which he exploited well as Bond)- and Schreiber once again proves why he's much under-rated, turning in a performance that is bravado, bluster as well as fragility and pain.
Defiance explores well the ideas that freedom under persecution brings - the community is forever under threat of attack and that creates simmering tension and resentment within.
Director Zwick, who did Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai, adequately exploits that tension but could have done a little more to hurry along the pace - and maybe been a bit more expeditious in the editing suite.
There are some interesting ideals which come sharply into focus - as Tuvia protects his community, he has to lay down the law more and more which puts him at odds with those around him; Zus refuses to consider any other action but violence - and the pair are changed forever by the course of action they have to take as they personify two different views of how to live under horrific pressures none of us hope ever to see again.
As well as the pace of Defiance, the inevitable downbeat nature of parts of the film begin to take its toll and when the final credits scene rolls and the reality of what the Bielskis achieved is catalogued, it feels oddly lacking in emotion.

Defiance isn't an easy film to spend 2 hours with - but as a portrait of what some were forced to do under conditions we may never see again, it's saved by the performance of its main protagonists.

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