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Inspired by a true story, director Edward Zwick's epic World War II drama Defiance tells the tale of three Jewish Eastern European brothers (Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell) who narrowly escape certain death at the hands of the Nazis, subsequently vowing to avenge the deaths of their loves ones by launching a desperate battle against the forces that seek to exterminate their entire race. The year is 1941, and the setting is Nazi-occupied Belarus. The Final Solution is in full effect, and the Jews of Eastern Europe are being slaughtered wholesale. Tuvia (Craig), Zus (Schreiber), and Asael (Bell) have miraculously managed to escape into the dense surrounding forest. Having played in these woods since childhood, the brothers have a distinct advantage over their adversaries, and soon decide that simply surviving is not enough. In order to make a difference, they must take action, but in order to take action they will need support. As whispers of their bravery take wind, others like them appear determined to lay their lives on the line for the cause of freedom. Tuvia has become the de facto leader of the group, but he's still somewhat reluctant to take on such a heavy responsibility and his brother Zus expresses concern that his idealistic plan will ultimately bring about the group's downfall. With winter setting in, everyone works to create a functioning community that will help them endure the frigid months that lie ahead, and Asael reluctantly finds himself caught in the crossfire of his older siblings' rivalry. Is it possible to keep faith alive in a time when the world seems devoid of humanity and survival becomes a way of life? ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
Pieter Jan Brugge Edward Zwick Roland Tec Troy Putney Alisa Katz
Composers (Music Score)
James Newton Howard
Clay Frohman Edward Zwick
Book Author - Nechama Tec
Casting - Victoria Thomas
Casting - Gail Stevens
Cinematographer - Robert Alazraki
Cinematographer - Eduardo Serra
Cinematographer - Gilbert "Berto" Lecluyse
Composer (Music Score) - James Newton Howard
Costume Designer - Jenny Beavan
Executive Producer - Marshall Herskovitz
Production Designer - Dan Weil
Supervising Art Director - Daran Fulham
Visual Effects Supervisor - William Mesa
A Holocaust film that's light on sentimentality but high on human drama, Defiance tells one of those remarkable survival stories that's so incredible it must be true. Though the poster image may indicate a film geared more toward a physical act of defiance rather than a philosophical one, anyone walking into Defiance in search of some cathartic, Nazi ass-kicking action will be sorely disappointed. It turns out co-screenwriters Clayton Frohman and Edward Zwick (who also directed) are more interested in using the scenario to explore man's inhumanity to man and the ways that war simultaneously brings out both the worst and the best in our unpredictable little species rather than following a group of machine-gun-toting Jews as they decimate Hitler's ranks.
Defiance takes its inspiration from Nechama Tec's nonfiction book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, which recounts the tale of three brothers who narrowly escaped a Nazi raid on their family farm, took refuge in the surrounding forest, and survived in the wilderness by setting up a small community with others who had lost their families and/or homes to the Nazi invaders. The year is 1941, and the Jews of Eastern Europe are under the threat of total extermination. Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), Asael (Jamie Bell), and Aron Bielski (George MacKay) have just lost everything they ever loved, and now in order to survive they must retreat into the trees. At first they have a distinct advantage over their pursuers; they grew up in these woods and know well how to use the cover to their advantage -- though as other wanderers arrive and their ranks begin to grow, so too do their chances of being discovered by the Nazis. When the competition for leadership between Tuvia and Zus threatens to stir dissent within the ranks, Zus makes the decision to leave the group and join a brigade of Russian resistance fighters who have set up camp nearby. As winter sets in, food supplies dwindle and disease begins to spread, causing many to wonder whether they should have remained in the ghetto and taken their chances with the Nazis.
When it comes to Holocaust dramas, filmmakers have a habit of focusing on the larger stories and the epic battles -- and who can blame them? After all, it was a time when the world came precariously close to falling under the command of a fascist tyrant commanding an imposing army, and seeking to wipe out an entire race. And though many film lovers immediately recall haunting images of mass graves or sweeping shots from Triumph of the Will when we think of that horrible time in history, some of the most remarkable stories from that time are also some of the smallest, as evidenced by the continued impact of The Diary of Anne Frank, or, more recently, Roman Polanski's The Pianist. In Defiance, you won't find any goose-stepping Nazis marching in formation, and the one shot of a mass grave is revealed with a sure-handed subtlety that truly makes the blood run cold. This is an intimate story of family and community, told on the kind of small scale that forces us to experience the horror of losing someone whose face we recognize and whose voice has faded forever into the wind. It's a stark, albeit inspiring drama wherein brotherly bonds (both literally and figuratively) are put to the true test, and the challenge faced by survivors is how to maintain their humanity while being hunted and slaughtered like animals. The value in a film like Defiance is in helping us realize what it takes to hang on to our compassion even in times of unprecedented despair, and never giving up hope -- even when logic dictates that all is lost. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi