Release Date: January 16th, 2009
Click here for the Defiance Trailer.
In 1941, German forces are marching through Eastern Europe targeting Jewish people as they go. Most are killed and the ones that survive are thrown into concentration camps or restricted to living in ghettos. In Russia, the Jewish Bielski brothers Tuvia(Daniel Craig), Zus(Liev Schreiber), Asael(Jamie Bell) and Aron(George MacKay) are hiding in the forest on the run from German soldiers and local police. Their parents have been killed by the local police under orders from German soldiers and the Bielski brothers vow revenge.
While in the forest, Aron goes exploring and sees a small group of refugees gathered in a clearing with large ditches that are filled with Jewish bodies. Aron allows the refugees to follow him back to his brothers. Zus doesn't want to help them, fearing they do not have enough food and supplies to provide for everybody. However Tuvia refuses to turn anybody that needs help away and allows them to stay. While talking with his brothers, Tuvia discovers which Russian police officer killed his parents. Tuvia then takes his brothers and the other refugees to a local farm where a non-jewish family friend lives. Wile his brothers and the refugees are hiding in the upper level of the barn, Tuvia meets with the farmer who gives him a pistol and four bullets to take care of the Police Chief who killed his parents. While Tuvia is having a drink with the man, the Police Chief, along with his police officer sons, show up at the house. Tuvia runs and hides in the barn while the man distracts the officers. After they leave, Zus, Asael, Aron and the refugees go back into the forest as Tuvia peruses the Police chief. Tuvia walks into the dining room where the Chief and his family are having dinner. Tuvia confronts the Chief and kills his two sons as they draw their weapons. When the Chief begs for his life, Tuvia shoots and kills him as well.
Tuvia returns to the forest where Zus asks him how it felt to kill them but Tuvia walks away. Over the next year, more and more refugees begin to join Tuvia and his brothers. Zus expresses his concern about providing for everybody at which point Tuvia devises his plan. Tuvia takes Zus, Asael and two other men and they set up a trap on a nearby road. When a German motorcycle soldier drives by, the men pull a wire across the road which dismounts the soldier. The men quickly dispose of him and search for weapons until a jeep approaches them. The men hide in the surrounding bushes but when a soldier urinates on Zus, he kills him which starts a firefight between the soldiers and the men. Tuvia and his squad survive and begin raiding the truck when truck filled with German soldiers arrives drawn by the gunfight. The two men are killed as Tuvia and Zus are separated from Asael who is chased into the opposite forest by soldiers. The next day, Tuvia and Zus return to the farmer who gave them the gun for more supplies only to find him hanged in his own barn by the Germans with a sign pinned to his chest stating "Jew Lover". His wife, however, is still alive and she takes Tuvia and Zus to the cellar where Asael emerges with a woman, a teenage girl and the guns from the soldiers.
When Tuvia and Zus fall upon a group of Russian freedom fighters known as the October Otriad, they make a deal where Tuvia allows his best fighters to serve with them in exchange for supplies and protection. Tuvia and Zus debate over the direction in which the group should take. Tuvia wants the group to stay hidden in the woods and remain safe while Zus wishes for them to join the October Otriad, which is aggressively attacking the German patrols. Through their disagreement, Zus takes a small force to join the freedom fighters while Tuvia remains behind to lead the refugees. As their numbers grow the group falls on hard times, especially in the coming winter. However, Tuvia is able to form the refugees into a community, assigning people jobs, making everybody work, building shelters and bunkers and even forming relationships with the men taking what is called a forest wife. After a long winter filled with disease, starvation and death spring approaches and the group begins to prosper once again. The leader of the October Otriad finds Tuvia and tells him that the Germans are surrounding the forest and plan to attack the refugees. The October Otriad refuses to help and flees to save themselves. When Tuvia returns to camp he notices a German scout plane above them. Tuvia orders the camp to evacuate taking only what they can. As the refugees gather their supplies a squad of German dive bombers attacks obliterating the camp and killing several people. Tuvia's hearing is impaired after a bomb explodes next to him at which point Asael takes control. Asael positions fighters at key points to hold off the Germans long enough for everyone to escape.
The defense is defeated easily by the large German force with only Asael and another making it back to the group who is now stopped by a seemingly endless marsh. Asael once again takes the leadership role and has everyone tie their belts to together to make a human chain across the marsh. As the refugees make it to the other side hope seems restored until another German force, accompanied by a Panzer III tank attacks them from the front. This time the group stands and fights. They begin firing on the Germans as Tuvia and another refugee, Isaac Malbin(Mark Feuerstein), flank around to the side where some soldiers are setting up a mounted machine gun. Tuvia and Isaac defeat the soldiers and take the gun. They begin firing on the tank and soldiers who change their focus from the refugees to Tuvia and Isaac. As the tank aims its sites on the two men, Isaac grabs a stick grenade and charges the tank only to be gunned down instantly. Just as the tank gets ready to fire Zus, along with his men from the October Otriad, emerge from the forest behind the Germans. The kill all the soldiers while Zus drops a grenade into the open hatch of the tank destroying it. The group gathers what ammunition and guns they can and head off back into the forest. The film ends with text and pictures revealing the fate of the Bielski brothers and the refugees they helped.
This is a completely different take on the whole World War II setting. Typically in WWII movies we get the viewpoint from the American soldier. Bravely fighting the Nazi regimes and keeping America safe or the attack on Pearl Harbor are all typical settings for WWII films. We sometimes even get the viewpoint from the Jewish people that are in the concentration camps. But we have yet to have a movie depicting the Jewish people fighting back against the tyranny and oppression the German soldiers inflicted upon them. Defiance is a refreshing take on the WWII genre. It depicts the struggle of a band of Jewish refugees who take up arms and fight back against the German forces invading their country.
This movie wasn't a huge mainstream blockbuster when it came out. It was a very good movie that got shadowed by the bigger films in it's release date. But just because the internet, t.v. and magazines aren't buzzing about it doesn't mean that the movie isn't worth watching. Daniel Craig(Casino Royale), Liev Schreiber(X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and Jamie Bell(Billy Elliot) are three very different actors who do an excellent job of portraying the three very different Bielski brothers. Each one gives his own unique style to his role which really helps diversify the characters allowing you to relate differently to each of the brothers based on your own personality. The setting of the film was also refreshing. Typically in WWII films you are thrust into the desolate and destroyed buildings of Germany or the beaches of the Pacific Islands. However in this one, you are based in the forests of Russia. This change in scenery makes for interesting battlefield tactics and firefights. I really liked how the refugees made their shelters. The were more like log bunkers built into hillsides which made hiding them from the soldiers easy. The story was also good. It really gave you a sense of how deep human emotion goes and the bonds and love shared between brothers. It also did a very good job of showing the basic human instinct to survive against all odds.
Some problems I had with the movie are minor at best. I did have a problem with some of the accents. While I have to give credit to the director and actors for making every character that needed one have a Russian accent it sometimes didn't come through so good, especially with Craig. Craig has a strong British accent which poked through more than once in some of his dialogue. I also didn't understand why some of the Russian characters in the film spoke in Russian with subtitles while a majority of the rest of the characters spoke English with Russian accents. It makes sense in a movie if the main character is one nationality and they speak to someone of a different one and their is subtitles, but when two Russians are speaking to each other in Russian and there are subtitles and then that same person goes off and starts speaking English to someone else it gets confusing. My biggest complaint, however, has nothing to do with the acting, writing or anything like that. I hated how everybody in the refugee camp was a horrible shot. They couldn't hit anything at all but that is because it was scripted like that so it doesn't really matter. I also found it strange that they were always complaining about not having any food or water but they always had a full supply of vodka.
All in all this was a very good movie. The main actors in it were great and the story is dramatic and captivating with action that leaves you on the edge of your seat. I would highly recommend this to any of you who like war movies, action movies or even movies with a good story and compelling drama. I give Defiance 8 Bielski Otriads out of 10
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