Review of Defiance written by Edward Zwick and Clay Frohman and Directed by Edward Zwick
Rating *** 1/2
Too many movies today that are based on true stories start with the disclaimer "based on a true story" or "inspired by a true story." So there's no way to tell fact from fiction. When a movie starts with the phrase "A true story" as this one did, you know that what you're seeing actually happened. This film tells the true story of three brothers who band together to fight the Germans in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1941.
The three brothers played by Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, and Liev Schreiber share a common goal of revenge for the deaths of their parents, but they take different paths in achieving that goal. Tuvia, the oldest brother played by Daniel Craig, is just looking to survive. He gets his revenge, but his higher purpose is the safety and well being of the hundreds of escaped Jews who have seeked safety in the forest. Zus, played by Liev Schreiber, gets his revenge and then some. He kills without compunction. The youngest brother Asael, played by Jamie Bell, fights only when there is no other choice. A fourth brother who was much younger has a much smaller part.
Several times there are statements made about how they must not become like the Germans, but in order to survive they are forced to do just that. Besides the constant threat from German soldiers and police, they have to deal with hunger and the elements. They build shelters, but they are often forced to move as the Germans close in. The film covers just one year, but the real participants spent two years in the forest moving from one site to the next.
The cinematography and score are first rate. The film looks and feels authentic. Adding to the authenticity is dialogue spoken in the language in use at the time.
At their peak there were as many as 1200 people gathered in the forest. The film shows the desperation and lack of food, but doesn't explain how they were able to keep that many people fed. And despite the circumstances, relationships were able to blossom, including a marriage for the younger brother Asael.
The disc had some very good extras including a making of documentary and an audio commentary by director Zwick. There is also information on the real people involved in the story. The film is based on a book by Nechama Tec. You can also find out more on the official web site at www.defiancemovie.com.