Though the standard clichéd belief of the holocaust is that European Jews were exterminated without offering resistance, historians have uncovered overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Defiance: The Bielski Partisans is the emotive and engaging true story written by historian Nechama Tec. Edward Zwick, an enthusiastic epic-style war movie director has successfully adapted this inspirational story of resistance against genocide without graphic and shock verbosity surrounding this topic.
Opening with actual archive footage of Hitler and the SS Guard carrying out their holocaust hand-wringing, Zwick's inherently powerful film conveys the courage, endurance, kindness and resolve of a family of four brothers during a tragic era of unimaginable atrocities.
In 1941, the order by Belorussia's occupying Nazi's 'Final Solution' to capture, slaughter and exterminate all Jews is instigated.
After the initial massacre, Aron Bielski (George MacKay) escapes into the familiar and safely dense Nalibocka Forest. Protected and sheltered by his two older brothers Zus (Liev Schreiber) and Asael (Jamie Bell).
Shortly joined by the eldest sib Tuvian (Daniel Craig), the brothers come to terms with the loss of their parents and must find a way to survive undetected by the encroaching threat.
Tuvian and Zus devise a plan to safely remain hidden in the woods living off the generosity of neighboring sympathizers. However, each return for assistance brings more refugees to their camp looking for asylum.
The newcomers bring stories of Tuvain's and Zus's families, each brother are now a widow. Whilst Zus believes their dependants are a hindrance and that it is paramount to live a undetected nomadic resistance, the ideological Tuvian insists that they have saved a life they are responsible for it, and must provided shelter and sanctuary.
A whisper of their daring defiance spreads throughout the ghettos. Their makeshift company grows rapidly and meeting the needs of their wards becomes impossible. Tuvian quickly adapts to leadership and vows to live nobly, proclaiming to all within his care that certain rules will be adhered too.
All who live with them in freedom must contribute working or fighting to build a self-sufficient and functional community.
Eventually, Zus's smouldering class resentments against those who now seek his protection and his revenge-fuelled ruthless hotheadedness does not sit well with Tuvian's stoic and naturally peaceful manor of leadership. A fierce rivalry and rift is formed between the eldest brothers and Zus abandons the encampment to join with a nearby alliance of red army Soviet comrades.
Tuvian believing he is defying the Germans by simply surviving, "our revenge is to live" continues to perceiver in the forest through the looming dead of winter. Rampant with disease and dying of starvation, the fighters of the team become petulant and Tuvian must conceit and ask the Soviet comrades for assistance.
Blatantly rejected, Zus relents on his staunch shunning and assists Tuvian in his mission for medicine, Upon Zus's return to the comrades, anti-Semitic remarks become plentiful and he must decide whose cause he truly believes in fighting for.
Liev's strong, passionate, stirring and comfortable characterisation propels him into a new realm as an actor. Although he has worked solidly in Hollywood since 1994, his more recent dynamic offerings are well deserving of an A-list status.
Daniel Craig's stiff and over calculated performance is clumpy. A wonderful affect having the actors speak in native tongue, but the following broken intermittently peppered shadow accent by Craig is disjointed and distracting.
The overabundant repetitiveness of story is frustrating. The marriage of not one brother but all three older sibs to "forest brides" appears unnecessary even if true; and the need to have at least one bare-chested scene with Craig is simply tacky.
Director Zwick does successfully manage to convey the dauntingly harsh reality and gravity of subject without the usual desensitized graphic fighting and heavy war conflicts. Similar to that of The Reader this movie sits on the grit and gravity of its somber topic making it easily digestible without probing for sympathy.
James Newton Howard's textured music and Eduardo Serra's stunning cinematography in the Lithuanian woods is a definite highlight.
The Verdict: This historically accurate war account has been adapted into a slightly over emotionally manipulated American style screenplay. Defiance yearns for authenticity, simply stating "a true story." It may be a true story, but it is not truthfully told.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 08/05/2009