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The Essential Guide to Bristol
13 February 2009
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Defiance (15)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/01/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 137 mins

Enjoyable, well-acted and impressively shot wartime drama that reveals a remarkable true story, though it's at least 20 minutes too long and outstays its welcome before the end.

What's it all about?
Directed by Edward Zwick and beautifully shot by Eduardo Serra, Defiance stars Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell as Tuvia, Zus and Asael Bielski, three Jewish brothers who escape into the forests of Byelorussia after their parents are slaughtered by the Nazis in 1941. Together with their youngest brother Aron (George MacKay), the brothers form their own resistance movement, which they dub The Bielski Otriad (brigade), obtaining weapons by attacking German convoys and making a permanent camp in the woods.

As word spreads, the brothers are joined by more and more refugees and it becomes difficult to feed them all. And when tensions erupt between Tuvia and Zus, Zus takes the group's best fighters and joins a nearby faction of the Red Army, leaving Tuvia to organise a ghetto breakout on his own.

The Good
The performances are excellent: Daniel Craig impresses as Tuvia (even managing a decent Yiddish accent), while Liev Schreiber bristles with anger as Zus and Jamie Bell does a subtle but effective job of showing his character's transition into manhood. There's also strong support from Alexa Davalos, Iben Hjejle, Jodhi May and Mia Wasikowska as the various women in the camp.

Director Edward Zwick seems to specialise in illuminating untold pockets of history and the story of the Bielski Otriad is both fascinating and, ultimately, moving. In addition, Zwick stages some exciting action sequences and gives each actor a chance to shine, ensuring that everyone gets at least one standout scene.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is its length – at almost two and a half hours, it eventually wears out its welcome. In addition, the plot is slightly hamstrung by the fact that just surviving in the forest isn't particularly exciting or cinematic.

Worth seeing?
Defiance is an enjoyable wartime drama with strong performances from all three leads, but it doesn't quite justify its lengthy running time.

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Defiance (15)
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