Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jaime Bell
Directed by: Edward Zwick (“Blood Diamond”)
Written by: Edward Zwick (“The Last Samurai”) and Clayton Frohman (“The Delinquents”)
British comedian Ricky Gervais might have been only kidding around during this year’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony when he told actress Kate Winslet that critical acclaim will always come when an actor stars in a Holocaust movie, but with the onslaught of films on the topic released last year, one or two of them were bound to miss the mark on historical captivation.
While Holocaust films like “The Reader” and “Valkyrie” produced fine material in their respected genre, others like “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas” and “Defiance” do not hold interest for their entire runtimes. Although a true story like “Defiance” is an amazing anecdote on the surface, director/co-writer Edward Zwick has trouble creating an interesting community for his characters to thrive, which is basically the entire premise.
Actors Daniel Craig (“Quantum of Solace”), Live Schreiber (“The Manchurian Candidate”), and Jaime Bell (“King Kong”), play the Bielski brothers – Tuvia, Zus, and Asael – three Jews who escape Poland and hide out in the Belarussian forest for two years during World War II. There, the men create a “forest camp,” a makeshift society of other exiled Jews who are trekking through the woods to flee the Nazis. As their numbers grow, the Jewish survivors begin to form not only a new community to live in, but also a rebellion to fight back.
Adapted from the book “Defiance: The Bielski Partisans” by Nechama Tec, the idea that 1,200 Jews were able to evade death for two years is quite incredible and definitely a noteworthy chapter for any world history book. But as a film, Zwick and company horde the film’s characters into a tedious collection of one-dimensional throwaways in a talky and thematically unbalanced script. There’s no denying that “Defiance” is a film about bravery, but when the courageousness of an army is illustrated by how many soapbox speeches one can deliver, audiences can definitely count on an excessive waiting period before there is a satisfactory conclusion. It’s not until Zwick stops riding the break, however, when that actually happens.