If the turkey, the chocolate and repeated viewings of 'Casino Royale' over Christmas couldn't take away the bad taste left by Daniel Craig's latest Bond adventure 'Quantum of Solace', his new film might help. Directed by Edward Zwick ('Blood Diamond', 'The Last Samurai', 'Glory'), 'Defiance' chronicles one of the most fascinating but largely unknown resistance stories of World War Two.
When the German army invades Belarus in 1941, Jewish brothers Tuvia (Craig), Zus (Schreiber) and Asael (Bell) Bielski's parents, wives (Tuvia and Zus) and other relatives are murdered in a mass execution. The three young farmers flee with a handful of others to the Naliboki forest and become a partisan group, launching attacks on the Germans and bringing other Jewish families to join them at what becomes an expansive hideout. But as their number grows so too does the tension between Tuvia and Zus about the direction of the partisans, with the sibling rivalry in danger of putting everyone's life at risk.
Throughout his career Zwick has blended action and drama in his portrayal of the outsider and, like 'Blood Diamond', 'The Last Samurai' and 'Glory' before it, 'Defiance' would hold up to repeat viewing, combining, as it does, some very tough scenes with moments of black humour, tenderness and high tension. After watching, Nechama Tec's book on which the film is based could be a buy.
While bearing no resemblance to each other, Craig and Schreiber are excellent as Tuvia and Zus, capturing very well the complexities and energies of two brothers with enormous responsibilities. The roles are physically demanding and, with almost the whole film taking place outdoors, they and their co-stars earned their money and, more importantly, do justice to the real-life protagonists and the legacy of their heroism.
Some will have issues with the pacing and the fact that sometimes characters are speaking English and at others Russian; for others this will be too good to be written off as a 'guys' film'.