Friday, March 06, 2009

Defiance


Defiance is a story about the struggle of Jews from Belorussia. Hunted like animals they retreated to the forests in order that they live as men. There, even far from the people that hates them; it proved no easy task to maintain the humanity day after day.

Daniel Craig takes a break from the posh lifestyle of James Bond to playing the leader of a band of Jewish guerillas, Tuvia Bielski. Called by some as the Bielski Otriad, the group had at its core the three brothers: Tuvia, Zus (Liev Schreiber) and Asael (Jamie Bell).

As Tuvia, Daniel Craig is more the leading man now than in films like Road to Perdition, Lara Croft Tomb Raider, or Munich. I guess the role of James Bond rubbed off on him because I remember him more vividly now than in those films that I have mentioned. However, Liev Schreiber, the man portraying to be his brother, carried more of the dramatic load. Zus was the wilder and more emotional of the two strongest Bielski brothers.

As the leader of the group Zus and Tuvia also tackled the moralities in war. Being hunted should the group as well? Should they kill collaborators? Should they mount a guerilla war even if only a small percentage of them do the actual fighting?

As if that was not enough they had to deal, as all human beings do, the shortcomings of their own making. There are those waning in courage, others hungry for company; and there are others hungry for a taste of the culture they once had. The most despicable of the lot are engaging in power trips maltreating their own like the Germans who hunt them.

Beyond the moral issues and the internal discord Defiance is very much like Schindler’s List. Tuvia like Oscar Schindler had very different ideas in mind when the war changed their lives. As any children would do surviving their parents Tuvia immediately took his younger brothers under his care. But going through the country side and the villages, as a Jew with some skills in combat, he can’t help but risk taking in more than he can protect and feed.

Imagine the strain of protecting hundreds of people all of whom are scared, hungry, trying to get strength enough to reach the end of the war which in this case happens to be Tuvia. The Bielski group had by the end of the war over 1000 people.

My only issue with how the film was made was the language. The style of the filmmaker was confusing; anyone within the camp was in English and anyone outside was speaking some kind of eastern European language perhaps Russian or Polish. It confuses me because I can’t tell if they were still within their country, Belorussia, or, being in the border regions and on the retreat from advancing Germans, did they actually cross the border.

Filmmakers should have copied the approach done in Valkyrie wherein Tom Cruise started the film speaking German. After a few minutes have been established, when audiences see character and establish the nationality only then does it turn to English for the rest of the film.

With that being said I believe they still did a terrific job with maintaining authentic sounding Eastern European for the rest of the cast.

I loved Defiance very much and being a war movie was a plus. I guess you can say it was a feel good movie considering the topic; hooking in the audience with scenes of despair, chaos; and by the film’s end there was hope. It is always gives you a warm feeling to see the goodness of human nature pulled through when you least expect it, especially in an era that is one of the 20th century’s darkest.