Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Defiance" (2008) - Movie Review

Edward Zwick’s “Defiance” repeats the problem what his very early film “Glory” had, devoid of life in its characters. “Defiance” tells about the survival and fight of a group of Jews which of course is a display of bravery, courage and hope unfortunately misses the idea of screenplay breathing energy into those people. It neither represents a true account nor goes for the action pack (of course not) material. It does the first blunder of proclaiming the film to be a “A True Story”. Yes the story is true but the film cannot be the actual portrayal of the events. This obviously has attracted hell of a lot controversies which is a regular complaint when films are made from real life. Here though the film intends to claim of being accurate by saying “A True Story”.

What the screen writers Clayton Frohman and Zwick stepped on the novel “Defiance: the Beilski Partisans” by Nechama Tec would have been a gold mine as film makers would see and honestly speaking the film does display many evidence of a great film, but suffers from lack of character development. The acts and paths of the brothers Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) and his immediate brother Zus Bielski (Liev Schreiber) towards the predicament they were in are their conscience and decisions but the film does not make them a character we could associate ourselves into the story.

At the break out of the Nazi’s capture and jailing of the Jews in the ghettos, the Bielski brothers Tuvia, Zus, Asael (Jamie Bell) and youngest of them Aron (George MacKay) flee into the woods. With their families killed, the brothers begin to meet various other Jews coming in flocks from the villages and ghettos. Soon they become caretakers and begin to form a community around these people. They begin to form a small town amongst the woods. Of course vengeance and conscience cross paths between Tuvia a diplomatic man for the most parts after he gets his blood for his parents while Zus looks for immediate action. Both divide on the matter of war or to stay human for most of their lives. They separate in the middle of it.

Edward Zwick’s “Defiance” tries to be a detailed story yet misses its counts on the characters it starts to focus. The professor Shamon (Allan Corduner) and the philosopher or “intellectual” as he calls himself, Isaac (Mark Feuerstein) develop the cliched comrades in this suffering by having hard debates which dies off after one scene. Similarly is the bad apple in the group Arkady (Sam Spruell) who has a sleazy smile and two dialogues to impose himself as the villain in the clan. Along with it are the ladies who come and go as the story wishes for their male partners.

There is a very intense scene when a German soldier is captured. Every one surrounds him and the German says he has a wife and got kids. But no one is ready to listen. Of course not because they have rage in their heads but also fear of letting him go as he would guide the troops right in to them. At that moment Tuvia looks at the situation and his younger brother Aron leaves the scene. Every one begins to butcher the soldier while Tuvia does not know what to do. He becomes a calm accomplice because he has no choice. That is a powerful scene which got to be ended on what Tuvia’s perception or his words of wisdom to his younger brother. Instead there is an emptiness which should be there as an element not as incompletion.

No doubt that the act of the brothers in real life is something unimaginable and the history which has not collected those which is surfacing now is surprising but the film does not capture that. The work of resurrecting these people and their acts are given as an illusion of erecting facts without souls. But in actuality the facts can hardly get right and I mean to say the details of the emotion. The emotion divided among on to live as community and whether to defend or fight with the definite end of dying. What went on their minds is impossible to reproduce and that is where the film should have taken its stand. It assumes to know their characters but it hardly does.

The actors do their part with the material they are given. Craig and Schreiber especially make believe their brotherhood and their views diverging in opposite directions. The film plays strangely as a routine we have seen which actually should not be. It merely goes into the concept of living as a community but does not sink its teeth in how they maintained peace, law and ordinance in a small country they have formed. Zwick has all the good scenes and all the right casts and in fact a great story but does not breathe the necessary element of fresh air of characters in it.

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