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Jeff Nelson

Defiance is an engaging film that I can easily recommend despite its shortcomings

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Once a director has created multiple excellent films, high expectations are set by audiences. This held true for Director Edward Zwick. After bringing motion pictures such as Blood Diamond to life, viewers wanted to continue to see that magic. Zwick later made a movie centered around World War II aiming to emotionally involve the audience trying to recreate that magic with the cinematography, strong acting, and inspiring story.

Tuva Bielski, one of four Jewish brothers who escaped from Poland into the forests of Belarus during World War II to lead a band of resistance fighters and create a safe haven for Jewish refugees. The real-life sanctuary established by the Bielski brothers saved more than 1000 Jews from persecution and death. World War II has never been an easy subject to tackle for a filmmaker. Only a handful of films have successfully centered around this dark part of history. Defiance plays at a slower pace than most viewers would expect. However, this doesn't mean it's dull or that it drags. In fact, it's exactly the opposite. I never found myself bored or looking at the clock. The screenplay engrosses its audience into its world and doesn't let go until the credits are rolling. Viewers will quickly find themselves attached to the Bielski brothers, despite their different opinions on what path should be taken and the ultimate split as they go their separate ways. Even though Defiance is primarily a drama based on real life, it has action put into the mix. Unfortunately, Hollywood certainly left its fingerprints all over. There are moments that could have been raw emotional sequences, but were ruined by adding unnecessary music with some cliché scenes. Edward Zwick could have created a giant emotional punch to the crowd, but never quite delivers it.

The strong performances are full and intact. Daniel Craig plays Tuvia Bielski. He's an inspiring character who saved many lives and needed an actor who could convey his powerful speeches. Craig is great in this role. Lieb Schreiber performs as Tuvia's brother, Zus Bielski. He does a wonderful job alongside Craig. Schreiber gives just as natural of a representation as Daniel Craig. There aren't any poor performances to be seen in Defiance.

Even though visuals aren't the most important element of filmmaking, they're critical for Defiance. Zwick has created an excellent atmosphere. The tone alters as the seasons change. The photography is top notch. I expected a bit more out of the audio presentation. While the surrounds are used very well, the gunshots during the action scenes sound a bit thin. The explosions are delivered well with deep bass. The dialogue is never difficult to understand. This isn't a reference audio track, but it still sounds good.

Mixed opinions are sure to be expressed by different audiences. The screenplay is decent, the acting is strong, and the visuals are phenomenal. However, it lacks quite a bit of the emotional punch. This film would have benefited from not having Hollywood's mark all over it. Defiance is an engaging film that I can easily recommend despite its shortcomings.


My Rating = Three and One Half Stars

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