Defiance is an amazing story that suffers from a poor telling. It is mired in heavy handedness, never freeing itself to be anything other than a tale of revenge. With that said, there are some totally sweet battle sequences and good tough guy-ness on the part of Craig and Schreiber that make the movie a decent view.
Plot Synopsis. Tw brothers escape from Nazi-occupied Poland into a forest where they protect a camp of refugees that keeps growing in numbers Fighting a guerilla war against the Nazis, one of the brothers (Schreiber) aligns himself with anti-Semitic Russian Troops while the other (Craig) tries to maintain order among the huddled, hungry masses. Both brothers are forced to make difficult decisions that will test their bravery and dwindling sense of morals. It is a story about survival, revenge, and endurance.
What I thought. I really enjoyed Zwick’s last film—Blood Diamond. Although it had his particular brand of poorly-executed Oscar moments throughout, It was a solid action movie. What really made it shine was the obscurity of the setting and circumstances. Mainstream America did not know a lot about Sierra Leone’s civil war. They knew even less about how massive multinational corporations were complicit in smuggling diamonds that were sold to buy weapons. It was unique.
While mainstream America might not know the story of the Bielski Brothers and their protection of hundreds of Jews in a 1940’s Belarussian forest, we are quite familiar with the Holocaust. We know it’s terrible, and that’s why there are so many films about it. It is because of the overdone backdrop of the movie that the Oscar moments are less tolerable. It almost feels like laziness on the part of the director. You have to do something pretty amazing to make a film about Nazis that doesn’t seem like the one that was just made two months prior. Zwick did not achieve this. Instead, he made an action movie with plenty of over-acting.
The bottom line is that this movie is not what it was hoping to be—a powerful examination regarding the morality of revenge and protection. But it’s still worth watching. If for any other reason, there is some basic human satisfaction in seeing Nazi’s get shot in the face. I give it 7/10.