MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: +1/2

Daniel Craig, Liev Schrediber, Jamie Bell. Wartime drama. Written by Edward Zwick, Clay Frohman. Directed by Edward Zwick.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Based on an extraordinary true story, Defiance is an epic tale of family, honor, vengeance and salvation in World War II. The year is 1941 and the Jews of Eastern Europe are being massacred by the thousands. Managing to escape certain death, three brothers take refuge in the dense surrounding woods they have known since childhood, and they begin their desperate battle against the Nazis. Daniel Craig, Liev Schrediber and Jamie Bell star as brothers who turn a primitive struggle to survive into something far more consequential – a way to avenge the deaths of their loved ones by saving thousands of others.

At first it is all they can do to stay alive. But gradually, as whispers of their daring spreads, they begin to attract others – men and women, young and old – willing to risk everything for the sake of even a moment’s freedom. Tuvia (Craig) is a reluctant leader and his decisions are challenged by his brother Zus (Schreiber), who worries that Tuvia’s idealistic plans will doom them all. Asael ( Bell ) is the youngest – caught between his brothers’ fierce rivalry. As a brutal winter descends, they work to create a community, and to keep faith alive when all humanity appeared to be lost.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Powerful subject matter, but the screen realization is a bit aloof. The two brothers, both as stoic and warrior-like as comic book Vikings, are the problem. While both Daniel Craig and Liev Schrediber are outstanding actors, neither brings a vulnerability to their characterizations. Jamie Bell as their younger brother, on the other hand, does manage to grasp and relate emotions that grip us and bring us into the lives of those hunted by the Nazis. It is an award-worthy performance.

Though captivated by the storyline, I was not emotionally involved. As I left the theater I began comparing it to Saving Private Ryan. Though dissimilar in storyline, to be successful both needed to move us. Two lasting images from Saving Private Ryan will always remain with me. One is a silhouetted shot of a mother as a military car approaches. She realizes it is to tell her that her loved one is dead. She doesn’t just faint. She crumples to the grown, destroyed. We feel every bit of her pain. It is one of the most effective cinematic moment of any movie. Later, as an old man, Private Ryan is seen at a gravesite of a man who died that he might live. He asks his wife if he has been worthy of this sacrifice. It also twists our guts. The scene has more than one purpose as it begs us to ask the same question: Are we deserving of such a sacrifice, that a man lay down his life for us?

While Defiance is strong on the revenge aspect, it also delves into mercy, but it doesn’t move us. Not like Saving Private Ryan. It’s more historical than emotional. That said, it tells a story not often related. Many Jews went to their death without struggle, not because they were cowards, but because they couldn’t believe this was happening. Many believed resistance was futile and unnecessary, assured that something would suddenly change their plight. But this story showcases the willingness of many Jews to die for a cause greater than themselves. For that, it is a worthwhile film experience.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Paramount Vantage

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Around 20 or so obscenities, a split between the s- and the f-words.

Profanity: I caught two profanities, God’s name followed by a curse.

Violence: A vengeance mentality is offset by those who believe “our revenge is to live”; we do see a great many killings, ranging from many naked dead bodies shoved into a trough-like grave to vengeful point blank shootings; many other wartime killings. Blood: Some blood splattered during fights.

Sex: One implied sex scene; another one is seen, but not overly graphic.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: A great deal of drinking; though these people had little else, they always seemed to have a handy bottle of vodka.

Other: The film deals with the ethics of killing in order to protect others – while one brother stresses blood for blood, the other worries that they will become like the enemy, a people without compassion.

Running Time: 129 minutes
Intended Audience: Older Teens and Above

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