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Mainstream - Defiance

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Daniel Craig, Liv Schreiber, Jamie Bell
Directed by Edward Zwick
Paramount 2009
137 minutes

If you are looking for a war movie DVD, Defiance is not quite it. This is nonetheless an excellent war story but a true war story of a very unusual kind. Defiance tells the story of the Bielski brothers from Belorussia aka Poland who escaped the Nazis, allowed civilians to join their resistance movement, and established a resistance cell / commune.

Daniel Craig (the latest James Bond) plays Tuvia Bielski who along with his brother Zus (Liv Schreiber) forms a resistance cell in the forest. Zus wants to be strictly a commando force while Tuvia feels more responsibility towards all the Jews who escaped in the forest and are looking for shelter.

Defiance does not try to be a history lesson on the Jewish resistance movement or to disprove the view many Jews chose not to fight back. It does address the two issues briefly but this war movie DVD of sorts is more interested in the true story and societal aspect of the story. It is probably no coincidence that the difficulties in living as a commune are shown while a parallel resistance force that Zus joins is formed of communists.

This movie stays away from most war movie clichés and story elements. In fact, it sets up a few confrontations and sabotage missions but does not show the results. There are a few battles but they are, like the passing of the seasons, part of the background events to what the movie is focused on.

Very, very oddly, the most violent scene in Defiance is what happens when a German soldier is made prisoner. Perhaps it is because we have become desensitized by the kind of violence normally shown in war movies such as summary executions, German soldiers gunning down fleeing civilians (Jewish or not), and so on so this particular scene, because it is not a usual element of a war movie, still has a shock element to it.

Defiance is a bit on the long side at over 2 hours but it is hard to point out what should be cut out aside from a scene or two where Tuvia Bielski is brooding. This is the kind of movie you have to see at least once.

Special features on the Defiance DVD include members of the Bielski family telling a few family tales.

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