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Defiance (2009)



Average Rating: 5.9/10
Reviews Counted: 179
Fresh: 102 | Rotten: 77

Professionally made but artistically uninspired, Ed Zwick's story of Jews surviving WWII in the Belarus forest lacks the emotional punch of the actual history.


Average Rating: 5.6/10
Critic Reviews: 43
Fresh: 23 | Rotten: 20

Professionally made but artistically uninspired, Ed Zwick's story of Jews surviving WWII in the Belarus forest lacks the emotional punch of the actual history.



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Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 250,144

My Rating

Movie Info

Based on an extraordinary true story, "Defiance" is an epic tale of family, honor, vengeance and salvation in World War II. The year is 1941 and the Jews of Eastern Europe are being massacred by the thousands. Managing to escape certain death, three brothers take refuge in the dense surrounding woods they have known since childhood. There they begin their desperate battle against the Nazis. The brothers turn a primitive struggle to survive into something far more consequential--a way to avenge



Clayton Frohman, Edward Zwick

Jun 2, 2009


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All Critics (186) | Top Critics (44) | Fresh (102) | Rotten (77) | DVD (15)

The way Zwick force-feeds his audience emotion becomes laborious.

January 20, 2009 Full Review Source: At the Movies | Comments (3)
At the Movies
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I felt like these characters were prototypes and not people.

January 20, 2009 Full Review Source: At the Movies
At the Movies
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As a piece of historical redress, a great service has been done in bringing this narrative to the screen.

January 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's understandable and laudable that they desire not to sensationalize the Bielskis, and they've made a worthy film. But their understated approach makes the struggle seem less urgent than it must surely have been.

January 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ultimately, the film celebrates and memorializes the survival of something unthinkable, and a group of people for whom defiance meant, at heart, that they would push against the growing darkness and carry on.

January 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's difficult, perhaps impossible, to make a gripping 137-minute epic about people standing around under the trees.

January 16, 2009 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle | Comments (7)
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Zwick wants to tell timeless stories on a grand scale. I know that's not what people want anymore. I know it's not breathtaking. But it's not something many are doing now, and definitely not doing it this well.

June 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin

Zwick does not deal in gratuitous grotesquery or far-fetched metaphor. "Operatic" and "surreal" are not in his vocabulary.

August 16, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

For all its pomp and ruminating, Defiance isn't really interested in drama. It really just wants to entertain us. But it's not any better at that.

March 18, 2011 Full Review Source:

Defiance is heavy-handed, but emotionally compelling, engaging and inspiring throughout.

October 20, 2010 Full Review Source: IGN DVD

Director Edward Zwick does a fine job presenting the challenges of reality without falling into nostalgia or easy Hollywood heroes.

January 10, 2010 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

succumbing to Hollywood cliches at the expense of historical truth

December 17, 2009 Full Review Source: Draxblog Movie Reviews | Comment (1)

Un drama bélico eficaz que rescata la heroicidad de los hermanos Bielski, protagonistas de un episodio poco conocido de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

November 15, 2009 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total | Comment (1)
Uruguay Total

This is not an easy film to watch, as it describes the horrors of war with neither sympathetic nor maudlin touches.

October 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

In addition to blowing bunker-sized holes in the concept of Jewish timidity during the Holocaust, it's also a darn good bit of period storytelling.

October 9, 2009 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune

Doesn't quite live up to its great story. But this well-made, solidly conventional movie will almost certainly send you scurrying to find out more about its little-known heroes.

September 18, 2009 Full Review Source: Florida Times-Union
Florida Times-Union

Defiance is overly long and somewhat disjointed, dragging through an interminable second act that seriously impedes the film's flow and hurts the inspired performances.

August 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington Times
Washington Times

The tone is desaturated gravity, the action is smudged, the Old Testament parables subtle as anvils

August 26, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

An engaging and inspirational story about the spirit of survival, bravery and brotherhood.

August 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Moviedex

Good story, but loses its way dramatically long before the finish.

July 18, 2009 Full Review Source: CNNRadio

That Edward Zwick made such an honest film about the Bielski brothers is a wonderful gift, even if it is likely to be underappreciated by audiences.

June 17, 2009 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide | Comment (1)
Apollo Guide

A story that ought to be heartbreaking and ennobling...comes across as little more than ordinary.

May 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis | Comment (1)
Movie Metropolis

Ao tentar romantizar um incidente memorável, Zwick transforma uma história poderosa em um água-com-açúcar repleto de clichês.

May 10, 2009 | Comment (1)
Cinema em Cena

Schreiber and Craig make a well-matched pair of bulls. Schreiber's volatility is a nice foil to the taciturn intelligence that makes Craig such a great Bond.

May 8, 2009 Full Review Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald

Defiance isn't a bad film at all, it just isn't as good as it could have been.

May 8, 2009 Full Review Source: At the Movies (Australia)
At the Movies (Australia)

It's handsome looking, performances are strong and it really is fascinating to see this overlooked story.

May 1, 2009 Full Review Source: MovieTime, ABC Radio National
MovieTime, ABC Radio National

Audience Reviews for Defiance

Defiance is the true story of Jewish brothers Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber who hid from the Nazis in the Belarussian forest and quickly found themselves with an entire community of fleeing refugees to protect. Edward Zwick has always been fond of telling stories about the triumph of the human spirit and has on occasion been guilty of over-egging the sentimental side of things to get his intended point across. Defiance is no exception, but thanks to some clever writing and a strong central performance by Daniel Craig, this film manages to pull itself back from the brink of schmaltz. When Craig mounted a white steed and gave a very Braveheart speech to his new subjects, I thought "Oh we go again...", but soonafter when the people begin to starve, he promptly pulls out a Luger and puts a bullet in its head, almost as if to say "there's a time and a place for pomp and bluster, but this isn't it"! He shows the conflict between animal instinct and humanity quite nicely, sometimes showing compassion and yes, speech making, but at others dealing with the issues at hand with a ruthless efficiency. Craig and some handsome photography made this film for me and although it is guilty of emotional button pushing, sometimes those are the buttons you want to be pushed; especially when it comes to seeing at least one small victory against the greatest shower of evil bastards ever to walk the Earth...
November 13, 2013
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

With the exception of Asael Bielski, the memories of those living in the woods all those years are respected in this telling of their story. Asael Bielski went on to fight and die only a couple of years after the film finishes but his intentions are never made that clear in the film. There are always going to be inaccuracies in historical films but I think they got most of right, Zus Bielski is not always shown in a great light but their struggle and what they achieved is excellently told. Edward Zwick seems to have toned down his usual heavy handedness and for me it's a huge improvement.
April 5, 2013

Super Reviewer

I wanted to love this movie. The plot, the actors, the setting, all seemed to be the perfect setup for a gripping and dramatic film. Edward Zwick directed this movie and he tends to take sensitive topics and throw in blockbuster action scenes. It almost gave the movie an artificial feeling. Not only that, the follow-up to the ending was dreadfully simplistic with very weak character development. There is one scene noteworthy that really brings out Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber's acting performance, other than that, this movie lacks.
March 10, 2012
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer

If you were trying to find a way to bash this film you could say that it is about people running and hiding through the same kind of forest for two hours. That would not do the film any justice, of course, even if it is visually somewhat repetitive. The true story of three Belorussian brothers who take it into their own hands to safe as many Jews from the Nazi occupation as possible, by hiding in the woods. Especially the relationship between the reasonable leader Daniel Craig and hot-tempered Liev Schreiber makes the movie interesting even through a couple of slow passages. It also raises interesting questions about the nature of resistance and revenge in its different aspects. The action-packed showdown is really exciting, because those characters have grown on you by then. An enthralling and very entertaining unknown chapter of WW2 history.
January 25, 2012

Super Reviewer

    1. Tuvia Bielski: We may be hunted like animals, but we will not become animals.
    – Submitted by Brandon M (2 years ago)
    1. Shimon Haretz: If you save a life you must take responsibility for it.
    – Submitted by Brandon M (2 years ago)
    1. Tuvia Bielski: Everyday of freedom is an act of faith.
    – Submitted by Brandon M (2 years ago)
    1. Shimon Haretz: I almost lost my faith, but you were sent by God to save us.
    – Submitted by Brandon M (2 years ago)
    1. Asael Bielski: As long as I am leader you will obey me.
    – Submitted by Jesse W (3 years ago)
    1. Shimon Haretz: Yes. You annoy me, therefore I exist.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (7)

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