Monday, January 26, 2009

Defiance (***)

Defiance.  136 mins.  R.  Directed by Edward Zwick.  Written by Clayton Frohman & Edward Zwick.  Starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, and Alexa Davalos.

Defiance is the latest in a new trend of movies where Nazis are put on the defensive (Valkyrie) and Jews get to get kick some butt (Munich), and it stars Daniel Craig, who after this and Munich, must be the go-to guy to play a bad-ass Jew.  Edward Zwick directed the film (having previously directed Glory, Courage Under Fire, and Blood Diamond), and again shows his flair for livening up important historical movies with a healthy dose of action and an eye for entertainment.  As interesting and worthy a story as Defiance tells though (about three Jewish brothers who flee Nazi occupation in Russia, and head to the woods where they set up camp and defend themselves and others), sometimes Zwick can go a little overboard and deflate the sense of realism he's built up by including scenes that could only happen in the movies.  Case in point: a gorgeously-lit, post-coital scene in a tent where Craig and his gal pal cuddle.  Sample dialogue: "You saved my life," she says literally.  "No, you saved mine," Craig says figuratively.  Gag.  The scenes in the woods bear a little too much resemblance to those in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but Zwick and his collaborators do a nice job with the winter landscapes.  You truly get a sense of the isolation, cold, and despair gripping all of these people.  The movie ends with a bang, or several of them, and on a positive note.  That's rare for a World War II movie involving so many Jewish characters, and further compliments an already remarkable true story. 



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