A film telling the true story of four Jewish brothers hiding and fighting the Nazis, “Defiance,” starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber, is an overall success. The story of the Bielski brothers is one of tragedy, hardship and constant fear, yet also one of love, compassion and hope. This movie, directed by Oscar winner Edward Zwick, does a great job of keeping the viewer’s attention, but lacks emotion.
The intensity of “Defiance” is the most forward aspect of the movie. The plot entails death, gun battles, fistfights, chase scenes, and explosions. It’s just short of a James Bond movie (sorry Daniel Craig.) And although some of the emotion is replaced by action, the film still has some very powerful scenes.
“Defiance” begins with old clips of Nazis abusing and killing Jews and slowly turns into the start of the film. Zus (Schreiber) and Asael Bielski (Jamie Bell) observe the Nazis mistreating and sending the Jews off to work in labor camps as people are torn from their families. The two brothers return to their farm and discover their parents have been killed. They go into the house and pull up a few floorboards to discover their little brother, Aron (George McKay), hiding safely from the murderers.
The three brothers take refuge in the forests of Belorussia, which they know very well and where they are able to escape the Nazis. Their eldest brother, Tuvia (Craig), meets them in the forest and decides they must try to build shelter.
Only a bit of time passes before the youngest brother finds more people hiding in the woods who need help. Tuvia decides the others can stay with them even though there is little food. As the group grows, the brothers vow to avenge the death of their parents and kill those who took their lives. They discover through a friend of Tuvia’s that it was the police chief who was working for the Nazis who killed their parents. Tuvia kills the man and his two sons, exacting his revenge.
Both Tuvia and Zus learn of the deaths of their families who had been living in what were thought to be safe places. The plot continues as more people join their group and Zus and Tuvia continue to butt heads about what they should do. Eventually, Zus has enough and decides to go with a few others to join the Red Army, with whom the group has an alliance.
The winter begins to set in and the group is cold, sick and starving. They turn to Tuvia to lead them once again. He and Zus go to the police station, guns blazing, and return with medicine for the group. Zus begins to see that the Red Army is not really for him. Being one of very few Jews in their army, he decides to leave and go off with the others he came with to fight.
The action continues when the Nazis begin to move in around the forest. The group tries to flee but they are spotted by Nazi planes and bombed. Now on the run, the group heads further into the forest. The movie ends on a final climax, but I won’t spoil it for you.
Although a bit cliché, “Defiance” was still a solid movie. I found it interesting how the plot seemed to follow the story of Moses (Jewish leader who saves fleeing group from tyranny and passes over a large body of water to eventual safety). The acting and cinematography were less than great but didn’t hurt the film. I’d give this movie a solid seven out of 10 and would recommend it for those who love history to those who love WWII-style action and drama.