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Release Date: Jan. 16

Director: Edward Zwick

Writers: Clayton Frohman, Edward Zwick

Cinematographer: Eduardo Serra

Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Ravil Isyanov

Studio/Run Time: Paramount Vantage, 137 mins.

Blood Diamond director makes gratifying, but not great, historical drama

Filmmakers continue to find inspiring stories from the ashes of World War II and Germany’s attempt to extinguish its Jewish population. In Defiance, it’s the relatively unknown story of the Bielsky brothers and their courageous undertaking in hiding and protecting hundreds of fellow Jews in the forests of occupied Russian territory. Daniel Craig plays Tuvia, who becomes the de facto leader of the hidden community after a power struggle with brother Zus (Liev Schreiber). When Zus and others leave to fight with the Russian troops, Tuvia and his wards face the hardships of cold, hunger and internal revolt.

2 Days in ParisDirector Edward Zwick has made a good-looking film in Defiance, not unlike his work on notable productions such as Legends of the Fall, The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond. But with the exception of 1989’s exceptional Glory, Zwick’s films generally avoid the greatness that seems so close.
Defiance has its share of great moments, however, such as when varying classes of Jewish people—the rich, the poor, the educated, the peasant—all begin to cooperate. Or when Zus must fight alongside an anti-Semitic Russian. But it also fizzles into overly familiar scenes, e.g., when some of the camp bullies attempt to usurp Tuvia’s power, stereotypically reminiscent of something from Kevin Costner’s The Postman. Defiance could easily have been trimmed by 20 or 30 minutes. Still, the strength of the true story and some solid performances by Craig, Schreiber and Jamie Bell, who plays the youngest brother, give Defiance enough to make for a gratifying, if not great, historical drama.
Watch the trailer for Defiance:
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