Saturday, August 29, 2009
Movie Review: Defiance (2008)
It's the true story of the Bielskis, Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Poland who escaped into the Belarussian forests, where they built a village in order to protect themselves and over 1,000 Jewish non-combatants. Starring Daniel Craig (wtf?) and Liev Schreiber as Tuvia and Zus Bielski.
Ok, I'm gonna say it, Daniel Craig does not look like a Polish Jew. He actually did a fairly good job with his accent work, but I'm sorry, the guy is so obviously British, it was a bit distracting. If you can get past that, this is a really good movie. The director doesn't pull any punches, and certainly doesn't sugar-coat the story. The Bielski partisans are portrayed as vicious, even cold-blooded in their treatment of their enemies. All parties are portrayed as fallible humans. There is a wonderful badassness to some of the Bielskis' dealings with volatile situations which is refreshing (Jews are not normally shown as tough guys - at one point Zus even makes a comment about this, saying "Jews aren't good at drinking or fighting, just at dying.") Unfortunately, some of the action sequences are stylistically over-wrought (devolving at points into music video-esqe montages and shaky-cam garbage). Fortunately, most of the movie is shot in a normal style, so I was able to overlook the bad sequences.
At its heart it is a story about living a normal life in the face of outrageously oppressive circumstances, about the bonds of culture and family. One of the most important elements of the story is the relationship between Tuvia and Zus, and the strength of brotherhood. I like any movie that has a family-first message, and when Zus returns at the end to his brother's side, I was crying.
Liev Schreiber: A+
Daniel Craig: B-/C+
family-first message: A+
non-hamfisted approach to Holocaust story: A
and bonus points for a brief anti-Communist message