The suggestion in Knocked Up that Steven Spielberg’s Munich was ‘Rambo for Jews’ seems to have inspired Edward Zwick’s latest project. After military epics Glory and The Last Samurai, Zwick arrives at the remarkable true story of the Bielski brothers, three real-life heroes who, against all odds, preserved a community of Jews who escape Poland for the forests of Belarus during WWII. Allied with the Russian resistance, the community thrives unexpectedly, leaving Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) with the heavy responsibilities of any leader. Partisan Bielski is no pacifist or diplomat, and fights fire with fire by taking part in vicious reprisal killings, watched by younger brother Zus (Liev Schreiber), who becomes separated from Tuvia’s people as a potentially deadly winter descends and the warfare intensifies.
The Bielski brothers’ story is ideal for a thoughtful old-school action movie, and Defiance is never dull, driven by Craig’s ability to handle action with charisma and gravity. But while laudable in its attempt to depict the difficulties facing communities at microcosmic levels, Defiance’s range of supporting characters lack depth or context. And Zwick’s po-faced examination of group dynamics is eventually abandoned for a conclusion which is pure Boy’s Own adventure, closely resembling the equally melodramatic climax of Zwick’s Legends of the Fall.
General release from Fri 9 Jan.