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I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this flick but since there was a nice cast involved, I thought I might as well check it out. First of all, I have to admit that I had never heard about the Russian resistance before, so, only for this, it was already a really interesting movie. On top of that, I thought that the story was just really impressive. Of course, I have to admit it, the whole thing was nothing really original, it was actually full of clichés but I thought it was a well made picture, always entertaining and sometimes ever rather emotional. Concerning Daniel Craig, even though I’m glad that the James Bond gig gave him some worldwide recognition, it seems that his other roles didn’t get much deserved attention which is too bad. Anyway, I thought he was really good in this movie and Liev Schreiber gave also another really strong performance. Concerning Edward Zwick, I always had a hard time to really care about the work of this director but this movie must be, after ‘The Siege’, his most underrated one. To conclude, even though it was maybe not a masterpiece, I thought it was still a really solid historical drama and I think it is definitely worth a look, especially if you like the genre.
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After the disappointing Quantum Of Solace, Daniel Craig has brought my attention to him again now after seeing Defiance because it was great seeing him in action again with at least a decent story this time. Craig portrays Tuvai Bielski with a terrific performance. Tuvai is the oldest of the four Bielski brothers and because he started to build up the group of Jews living in the woods he became the leader of the group as well. Daniel Craig's accent was okay but did quite a tiny bit annoying at times. It was really weird hearing a British man speak an Eastern European accent and I haven't heard him speak like that before in a film. Liev Schreiber was good as Zus Bielski but he was the most troublemaking one of the brothers because he was always fighting with Tuvai over the problems regarding the large amount of Jews in the woods may cause. Jamie Bell is really awesome as well as Asrael who is the third Bielski brother. Bell portrays a man who died rather young during a battle in WWII just after the events that occurred in this film. This film introduced Mia Wasikowska as Chaya who was the love interest of Asael Bielski. Wasikowska is going to make an even bigger name for herself in the upcoming Tim Burton film Alice In Wonderland when she portrays Alice.
Edward Zwick is a director that I have always admired for making epic war stories true or untrue. His work in Defiance was a lot like how he directed The Last Samurai but it is more realistic in Defiance and I found the storyline more exciting. Zwick has created an absolutely marvelous epic that I loved from start to finish and found impactful throughout every seond of it. The script was adapted into two different things in two brilliant ways: the novel and the true life story of the characters. For the past three Zwick films, he has had three actors playing three different kinds of characters: Tom Cruise (The Last Samurai), Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond) and Daniel Craig (Defiance).
This film was nominated for 1 Oscar: Best Music Original Score but lost to Slumdog Millionaire. It was nomianted for that same award at the Golden Globes but lost to Slumdog Millionaire. Defiance is an absolutely fantastic film that I find to be the best film of 2009 so far. It is Daniel Craig's best performance since Casino Royale. Mia Wasikowska was introduced really well in this film as Chaya. Can't wait to see her in Alice In Wonderland!! I am unsure what the best Edward Zwick film is between Defiance and Blood Diamond but one thing for sure is that they're both fantastic achievements.
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In making Defiance, director Edward Zwick (whose résumé boasts such titles as The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond and Glory) turns his attention to World War II; helming a loose adaptation of Nechama Tec's novel which chronicled the true-life experiences of the Bielski partisans who waged a vicious guerrilla campaign against the Nazis. This historical action-thriller is a Holocaust movie with a twist - while films like Schindler's List focus on the extermination of the Jews in countless harrowing ways, Defiance concentrates on Jewish resistance fighters who slaughter their Nazi adversaries and generally kick ass (on that note, the Knocked Up boys would love this film). There are a number of battle sequences, but Zwick's film spends the majority of its runtime exploring the difficulties of surviving as fugitives in the midst of a harsh Soviet winter. Defiance is meticulously crafted, sincere and admirable, but while the facts are fresh, the execution (particularly the structure) is exceedingly familiar. The extraordinary true story has also been altered in a typical Hollywood fashion; coming across not as a fascinating history lesson but as a melodramatic, occasionally gripping historical action-thriller. It's certainly solid as the latter, but (considering the facts of the real story) a superior film could easily have been delivered had it been more faithful to the source material.
Set in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe of 1941 during the Holocaust, the story tracks the Bielski brothers - Tuvia (Craig), Zus (Schreiber), Asael (Bell) and Aron (MacKay) - who manage to escape the slaughter of the Jews and take refuge in a dense nearby forest they've known since childhood. Before long the brothers encounter a growing number of refugees fleeing from the savagery that's being unjustly inflicted on the Jews. In this Belarussian forest a makeshift village is established with its own rules, rituals and internal politics wrapped around one question: can the brothers afford the luxury of revenge on the Nazis, or should they lie low and concentrate on protecting the lives they've already saved?
Out of the Bielski brothers, Tuvia and Zus are the key players, and their intense relationship - beset with sibling rivalry - is as central to the drama as the appalling events of the war itself. The brothers' parents were slain by local police under orders from occupying Germans, and in no time Tuvia has summarily executed the murderers. Indeed, the film's secondary theme primarily concerns the brutalising effect of war on all involved. As the seasons change, the Bielski brothers are tested by the hardships of starvation and enemy patrols; hopeful they can survive the war without losing their humanity. By the war's end, in spite of the incredible hardships the partisans encountered, roughly 1200 people had miraculously survived in the woods.
Defiance is an amazing motion picture, endowed with excellent craftsmanship and a compelling story of remarkable endurance, courage and unlikely hope. It's an extraordinary tale, and one that deserves to be committed to celluloid. As to be expected, there is violence as the ever-growing assemblage of fugitives struggle to survive against all odds. Animosity flares and tempers fray as the pressures of hunger and sickness begin to set in while relationships start to evolve amidst this chaos as well. Zwick - a sturdy, competent director with a desire to illuminate long-shadowed stories - spent over a decade trying to bring this cinematic adaptation of Nechama Tec's novel to fruition. Yet in the long run, Defiance doesn't go beyond the usual hackneyed narrative of valour and endurance. It's also frustrating to consider how much more dynamic the story could have been with a few narrative tricks, such as flashbacks to reveal the back-stories of the four Bielski brothers. By narrowing the film's focus, Zwick is left with a formulaic tale of survival; the community-building elements of classic Westerns mixed with the guns-and-grit morality of every other World War II movie ever made. On top of this, the historical reality is vastly simplified, telling an abridged version of the story which has been crammed into a very recognisable structure. Defiance is an incredible motion picture, but it's unable to find the perfect balance between telling a story faithfully and ensuring an audience will be kept rapt.
The battle sequences are extremely skilful, and contain a sufficient amount of uncertainty to make them both genuinely exciting and riveting. But one should expect nothing less from Zwick; a director who has also overseen Civil War engagements (in the Oscar-winning Glory) as well as Japanese conflicts (in 2003's The Last Samurai). More gripping than the spectacular action is the drama involving the formation and preservation of the Bielski partisans' refugee camp located deep in the Belarussian forest during one of the most inhospitable times of the year. Not only do they encounter problems with famine, but an outbreak of typhus also spreads throughout the community. Zwick recreates each new crisis with utter immediacy while never bypassing other less threatening elements of life, such as faith in God under trying circumstances, the friction between the Bielski group and other partisans in the vicinity, as well as love, sex and marriage. At first glance, Defiance appears to centre on a series of guerrilla attacks against the Nazis. But in reality these moments are merely a small segment of the wider tapestry director Zwick has stitched together out of a mixture of history and dramatic license. The various central themes are tough and substantial, and Zwick treats the subject matter with the gravitas it deserves.
Eduardo Serra's stunning, gritty cinematography of the Lithuanian woods (filmed approximately a hundred miles away from the real location of the Bielski brothers' camp) is a particular highlight of Defiance. The landscape under a thick blanket of snow is captured with commendable brutality and harshness. James Newton Howard's elegant score (nominated for an Academy Award) also adds a stylish texture to the proceedings.
To the film's credit, the actors speak in European accents, and lines are occasionally delivered in foreign languages (like Russian). The authenticity of the picture is elevated by these small factors. Perhaps it's ridiculous for English to be spoken at all throughout the picture, but the approach as a whole is far better than that which was employed for Bryan Singer's underwhelming Valkyrie (also released in December 2008, and contained Nazis speaking English in British and American accents). An undeniable layer of Hollywood gloss envelops both features, but Defiance feels more authentic and gritty.
One of the main flaws of Defiance is that some of the high-minded sentiments articulated by Tuvia in his flowery speeches seem too contrived for the circumstances. Inconsistent accent and general stiffness aside, there isn't much specifically wrong with Daniel Craig's performance, but it's a little difficult to accept the actor as a Jew.
Central to the movie's effectiveness is Tuvia's transformation from idealist to pragmatist. He never quite reaches the level of callousness displayed by Zus, but events force Tuvia to reconsider the price of showing clemency. We can believe this interior struggle and the actor seems quite passionate, but this isn't Craig's best work. It's Liev Schreiber who turns in the best performance here - a memorable portrayal as the least idealistic of the Bielski brothers, and who constantly howls for Nazi blood. Admittedly, Craig and Schreiber have nice chemistry and their brotherly interactions are credible.
Jamie Bell meanwhile exhibits the makings of leading man here. Young Australian actress Mia Wasikowska also continues to display her top-notch acting talents; submitting a well-nuanced and believable performance...and Mia was only 17 years old when production began!
It's difficult to keep tabs on the rest of the cast. Most are quite memorable but (let's face it) names are hard to catch in a movie of this nature.
A respectable attempt at a Holocaust story with uplifting qualities and plump moral questioning, director Edward Zwick's Defiance is a handsome historical thriller which unfolds in a conventional, old-fashioned way of storytelling. Defiance begins ponderously but steadily grows more engrossing. This is a compelling, absorbing action-thriller with enthralling battle sequences, elevated by the briskness and focus of Zwick's direction. It's hampered, however, by superfluous sentimentality, a few awkwardly-handled love stories, and a bunch of trite ancillary characters (including a clichéd bespectacled intellectual as well as a cynically philosophical rabbi). The themes at the film's core have also been truly done to death. As a heroic drama, Defiance has its clichés and narrative hiccups. As an examination of the cycle of violence, however, this film is utterly harrowing.
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