Daniel Craig proves more than a beefy Bond in Defiance

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Daniel Craig in Defiance

Directed by: Edward Zwick
Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos

4.5 stars

Although it may not go down as a World War II classic like Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan, Defiance still proves itself worthy of recognition as a crowd-pleasing war drama.

The film follows the unbelievable â€" and relatively unknown â€" true story of three Jewish brothers, Tuvia (Craig), Zus (Schreiber) and Asael (Bell) Bielski, who organize a forest rebellion against Nazi soldiers in Belarus during WWII.

The film begins in 1941, when Hitler’s army has spread outward on a merciless quest to exterminate Jewish populations and eliminate the Soviet Union. After the death of their parents from the horrific invasions of Jewish communities, the three brothers flee Poland and go into hiding in the Belarussian forest. From there, they encounter other Jewish citizens who managed to escape from the Nazis and eventually they form a small community within the woods.

Tuvia assumes the leadership role, directing the men and women to work to build shelters and protect their community. Zus becomes determined to seek revenge upon any Nazi soldier he comes into contact with. The youngest of the three, Asael, is unsure of what path to take and spends his time both at the camp and participating in attacks against the Germans.

One of the movie’s strong points is the equal amount of screen time left for both drama and action. The scenes of the Jewish people struggling to survive while hiding out in the forest are powerful and heart-wrenching, while the action scenes provide excitement and suspense.

Craig gives quite an impressive performance, marking his territory in Hollywood as an actor capable of much more than what is seen of him in the Bond films. Schreiber, Bell and Davalos â€" who plays Craig’s love interest in the film, Lilka â€" also put on powerful displays that do justice to the lives of the real people whom they play.

From a technical standpoint, the film is not outstanding. A main problem is that it lacks character development, making it difficult for the viewer to identify with and recognize what sort of background these brothers are coming from.

More than anything, Defiance is praiseworthy because of its inherently dramatic and gripping story that will leave the viewer in awe. It is a rare portrayal of the Holocaust where Jewish people are much more than just victims. Through the brutality and sadness, it is ultimately a story of love, brotherhood and the absolute power of human will.

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