Defiance



Documentary (2010-2014)
UK/US/Fr/S Africa

Starring: Various
Director: Various
Writer(s): Various
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland



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LondonNet Film Review
Defiance

In our darkest hours, sometimes it takes just a single glimmer of light to remind us of our moral responsibilities as members of the human race...

Assael Bielski (JAMIE BELL) in DEFIANCE. Momentum PicturesDuring the Holocaust, the fabric of society was torn almost beyond repair as entire nations bore witness, sometimes silently, to Hitler's extermination of the Jews. Yet in the midst of shocking violence, there were beacons of hope to teach us valuable lessons about mankind's astounding courage, strength and resilience. Brave souls like 13-year-old Anne Frank, who evaded the Nazis for two years in a secret annex, or German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved hundreds of his Jewish workers from the concentration camps. One person can make a difference; ordinary men and women - no different to you or me - who put the welfare and fulfillment of others ahead of their own. Based on the book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans by Nechama Tec, Edward Zwick's historical drama relates another stirring tale of heroism and sacrifice during these horrendous years of conflict in Europe. Unfortunately, awe and wonder about the incredible facts underpinning Zwick's film gradually wane as the script, co-written with Clayton Frohman, distills facts at a pedestrian pace through competent action sequences and lacklustre verbal exchanges.

As Hitler's army marches through Belarussia, three Jewish brothers escape the onslaught to lead hundreds of survivors into the dense forests. While Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) and his gentle, youngest sibling Asael (Jamie Bell) establish an ever-expanding community beneath the tree canopy, fiery-tempered middle son Zus (Liev Schreiber) refuses to stand by as his people are wiped out. He abandons the refuge with men in tow and aligns himself with Viktor Panchenko (Ravil Isyanov), charismatic commander of an otriad determined to strike at the heart of the Nazi machine. In Zus's absence, Tuvia struggles to maintain control of the rapidly swelling number of refugees, constantly meeting resistance from rival, Peretz Shorshaty (Martin Hancock) and his acolytes. Thankfully, the beautiful Lilka (Alexa Davalos) and Asael help to keep Tuvia grounded as he awaits his middle brother's return and an end to the bloodshed.

Zus Bielski (LIEV SCHREIBER)and Tuvia Bielski (DANIEL CRAIG)in DEFIANCE. Momentum PicturesDefiance is an incredible, forgotten page out of history but Zwick simply doesn't do the Bielski brothers and their fellow survivors justice with this sprawling opus. Craig lacks spark in his pivotal role, delivering his character's emotionally charged, rallying cries ("We may be hunted like animals but we will not become animals!") without conviction, in an accent that comes and goes at whim. Schreiber is far more compelling as a man of action, who realizes that time will not wait for a condemned man. "'A Jew can't drink, a Jew can't fight.' What is it we are good at?" Zus asks Viktor. "Dying." Skirmishes between the Germans and rebels are well choreographed, providing respite from the limp, ponderous dialogue.

- Kim Hu


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