Directed by Edward Zwick
Starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos, Tomas Arana
Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 2
Word of Warning: Too long, too many clichÃ©s, not enough heart.
With an inspiring name and all-star cast, “Defiance” fails to deliver on what it promises. The film is wrongly titled, wrongly cast and unfortunately, just plain dull. It is based on the true story of four Polish-Jewish brothers during World War II, who escape the Nazis by hiding out in the heavily wooded forests of Poland. As time goes on, other Jews seeking escape from Nazi brutality join the brothers and the group continues to grow as word of the hidden forest camp spreads.
Daniel Craig is Tuvia Bielski, the eldest brother and forest camp leader. Liev Schreiber is Zus, Tuvia’s younger, hot-blooded brother. The casting is ridiculous; the two actors look as much like brothers as Hulk Hogan and Steven Speilberg. After their parents are killed in a raid conducted by a Nazi-sympathizing Polish police officer, the two eldest brothers, along with their two younger brothers, flee to the forest.
Overcome with anger and blood lust, Tuvia visits the police officer he believes responsible for ordering his parents’ death, and shoots the officer and his two sons in cold blood. This incident continues to contradict Tuvia’s character throughout the rest of the film, leaving the audience slightly befuddled about Tuvia’s true nature.
Director Zwick’s portrayal of the Jews in the forest camp is at best stereotyping and at worst down right annoying. The Jews in the movie are pathetically unable to fend for themselves. Most haven’t even handled a hammer, let alone carried a gun, and their incompetence is painful to watch. In the film, it seems without the Bielski brothers, the entire lot would have died within weeks.
The scenes of forest camp life are snore inducing and peppered with line after line of badly written dialogue. With the talented of Daniel Craig at their fingertips and an fascinating true story, the writers and director still couldn’t deliver inspiration or make the audience care about the characters.
The dictionary defines “defiance” as, “the act or instance of defying, the disposition to resist, a willingness to contend or fight.” There is little correlation between this word and the portrayal of the Jews in this film. Hiding out in the forest for over two years does not fit the description of what it means to be defiant. Zus, along with a few other men, decides to fight, leaving the forest camp and joining the Russian troops who are fighting the Nazis. These are the only characters who truly show defiance.
This isn’t the worst movie of the year, but it is a disappointment – a true story with enormous potential turned into a muddled, confused movie by incompetent writers. I’d advise you to skip this one and instead rent “Schindler’s List,” a much more touching look at a heroic act in the face of unimaginable brutality.
Note: The film is based on the book, “Defiance: The Bielski Partisans,” (1993) by Nechama Tec, a professor of Sociology and Holocaust scholar at the University of Connecticut.
***Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor