Freedom Begins with an Act of Defiance.
"...a fresh and engaging view of World War II that's all the more startling because it's based on the actions of a real Belorussian family. Dan Lybarger, eFilmCritic.com
|Daniel Craig (James Bond: Quantum of Solace) stars as Tuvia Bielski, an ordinary citizen turned hero, in this action-packed epic of family, honor, vengeance and salvation. Defiance is a riveting adventure that showcases the extraordinary true story of the Bielski brothers, simple farmers -- outnumbered and outgunned -- who turned a group of war refugees into powerful freedom fighters. Tuvia, along with his unyielding brother, Zus (Liev Schreiber, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), motivate hundreds of civilians to join their ranks against the Nazi regime. Their "Inspirational story" (David Densby, The New Yorker) is a true testament to the human spirit.|
"Well acted, shot and edited, coupled with a compelling history lesson, in the hopes we do not let it repeat. Fiore Mastracci, Outtakes With Fiore
"...absolutely stunning battle sequences, fascinating sets and flawless period details. Frank Wilkins, ReelTalk Movie Reviews
"Powerful, gripping and quite remarkable. Daniel Craig gives the performance of his career. Pete Hammond, Hollywood.com
"An absorbing family saga, a thrilling combat movie and a backwoods epic that conveys the feel of a frontier-community-under-duress with the vividness of a John Ford classic. William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
DEFIANCE is a different kind of World War II movie, one that looks at the Holocaust from a unique angle--telling the true story of a group of Jews in Eastern Europe who fought back. On the run from the Germans and the local police, the three Russian Bielski brothers--Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), and Asael (Jamie Bell)--hide out deep in the forest. Their numbers swell as more and more refugees join them, coming together to form a community while also patrolling with guns and shooting the enemy to stay alive. But Tuvia and Zus have a falling-out over what future direction to take: Tuvia thinks it best to remain in the forest despite the coming vicious winter, but Zus wants to join the Russian resistance, which is aggressively attacking the Nazis. Complicating the situation are the women in their lives, known as forest wives--Lilka (Alexa Davalos) shows interest in Tuvia, Bella (Iben Hjelje) grows close to Zus, and young Chaya (Mia Wasikowska) and Asael flirt with the tingles of first love. As food grows scarce, diseases increase, and the Nazis become determined to find and kill them, the Bielski Otriad struggles to survive, battling back when necessary, including taking up arms. Directed by Edward Zwick (GLORY, BLOOD DIAMOND) and based on the nonfiction book by Dr. Nechama Tec, DEFIANCE is a powerful thriller filled with tense human emotion, a gripping story about brotherly love and the basic human instinct to survive against all odds. Craig (LAYER CAKE, CASINO ROYALE), Schreiber (EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED), and Bell (BILLY ELLIOTT) are terrific as the Bielski brothers, three very different individuals who simply refuse to just lie down and die.
Cast & Crew
||James Newton Howard, Nominee, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Golden Globe (2009)
||James Newton Howard, Nominee, Best Original Score - Motion Picture
3.5 stars out of 4 -- "The acting is incredible, proving that Craig can still expand his horizons beyond James Bond; Shreiber is solid..."
3 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t has a serious story to tell: of remarkable endurance, courage and unlikely hope."
Los Angeles Times
"Craig and Schreiber are two excellent actors, and both of them connect strongly with their roles as well as their fierce rivalry."
"In DEFIANCE, Craig brings grit and gravity to the role of Tuvia Bielski....Director Edward Zwick has seized on a strong, underserved subject."
"[A] true story of a WWII siege met with courage under fire....ZWICK offers excitingly staged moments..."
"It's impossible to watch Defiance without experiencing a vicarious thrill of resistance and revenge."
3.5 stars out of 4 -- "[R]are and exciting....The cast, especially Craig and Schreiber, are at their best."
ReelViews 8 of 10
Edward Zwick's adaptation of the true-to-life story of Nechama Tec's book about the Bielski partisans, this movie is less about the struggle against the Nazis than it is about the fight for survival. Although there are battles, Defiance spends most of its time exploring the difficulties of surviving as fugitives in the midst of a Soviet winter...The battle scenes are well choreographed and contain enough uncertainty to make them genuinely exciting, but one would expect no less from a man who has overseen Civil War engagements (Glory) and Japanese strife (The Last Samurai). More compelling, however, is the drama associated with the establishment and maintenance of the Bielski partisans' refugee camp, situated deep in a forest during one of the most inhospitable times of the year. Not only are there problems with famine brought on by the inability to grow anything in the freezing cold, but an epidemic of typhus runs rampant through the community. Zwick re-creates each new crisis with immediacy and doesn't bypass other less life-and-death elements of life: faith in God under such trying circumstances; love, sex, and marriage (three of the four brothers become emotionally connected to female refugees); and the friction that occurs between the Bielski group and other partisans in the area...Central to the film's effectiveness is the transformation of Tuvia from idealist to pragmatist. While he never reaches the level of callousness and brutality displayed by Zus, events force him to reconsider the price of showing mercy. Craig handles the performance well enough for us to believe this character development, but this isn't his best work...Ultimately, the film works not just because of the character arc it provides for its main character but for its ultimate theme of the triumph over adversity. In Exodus, Moses led the Hebrews out of captivity. Who would have suspected that in this tale, the role of Moses would be played by James Bond?
- James Berardinelli
Chicago Sun-Times 7 of 10
"Defiance" is based on the true story of a group of Jews in Belarus who successfully defied the Nazis, hid in the forest and maintained a self-contained society while losing only about 50 of their some 1,200 members. The "Bielski Partisans" represented the war's largest and most successful group of Jewish resisters, although when filmmakers arrived on the actual locations to film the story, they found no local memory of their activities, and, for many reasons, hardly any Jews. Edward Zwick's film shows how they survived, governed themselves, faced ethical questions and how their stories can be suited to the requirements of melodrama...The story of "Defiance" has all the makings of a deep emotional experience, but I found myself oddly detached. Perhaps that's because most of the action and principal characters are within the group. The Nazis are seen in large part as an ominous threat out there somewhere in the forest, like "Those We Don't Speak Of" in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village."...The best performance, because it's more nuanced, is by Liev Schreiber. His Zus Bielski is more concerned with the big picture, more ideological, more driven by tactics. Daniel Craig is very effective as Tuvia, the group leader, but his character, perhaps of necessity, is concerned primarily with the organization, discipline and planning of the group. A farmer, he becomes an administrator, chief authority and court of last resort...As a Nazi observes, not without admiration, the Bielskis set up a self-sustaining village in the wilderness. Their situation is more precarious because they are surrounded by anti-Semites not only from Germany but from Russia and Poland. They cooperate with Soviet forces out of necessity, but cannot delude themselves. Their efforts prevailed, and today there are thousands who would not have been born if they had not succeeded.
- Roger Ebert