Reviews & Previews - Defiance

Posted on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 05:00 PM


By: S. Tran

Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Running Time: 137 minutes
Rated: R

The Private War

Defiance is one of those movies that make you shake your head in wonder because even though you knew it was based on a true story you still are left with the feeling that the whole thing must have been made up. Until the film came out I had never heard of the story of the Bielski brothers but the film does a great job in introducing them to the world.

During World War II, as the Nazis were invading Poland, the the Bielski brothers, Tuvia, Zus and Aseal (Craig, Schreiber and Bell) hid in the forests near their village after their parents are killed. The brothers find themselves thrust into the roles of protectors and freedom fighters after they kill some Nazi collaborators and Jews begin to travel to the forest to find the compound they eventually build. Over the next three years the brothers save hundreds of Jews from death at the hands of the Nazis while living in primitive conditions in the forests.

Unlike The Reader, which came out earlier this year, Defiance is a satisfying movie. The film focuses on telling a great story instead of trying to scrape some new meaning out of the horrors of war. By engaging us with a wonderful narrative the messages of hope and faith and struggle are conveyed effectively and in an entertaining fashion which is what movies should be about. It avoids the pitfall that many war movies fall into where the message drowns out the story.

Craig and Schreiber take up most of the film as Tuvia and Zus who have a strained relationship as they disagree on whether they should be attacking Nazis or just trying to stay alive in the forests. Craig's performance has some nice depth to it and we see a few different sides to the character as he tries to deal with the enormity of his task as more and more people come to him for help. He is no superhero and his moments of weakness are just as effective as the strength he displays. Schreiber is a solid actor and holds in own in the scenes with Craig.

Edward Swick does a good job in keeping the movie moving along while taking the time to let the characters develop. The pacing didn't feel rushed but the movie did not feel that it dragged on either. With this kind of material it was probably tempting to add a lot of extra scenes to the movie to make it feel more weighty or important but I am glad they resisted the urge.

The Bielskis' story is amazing and this film does it justice by letting the story come out without smothering it in unnecessary commentary. Even if you are a little weary of war movies this one is one worth checking out.


3.5 out of 5 stars.


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to