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Guide price: $11
Last updated on 6th Jun 2009
Three ferociously committed actors fill the roles of the Bielski brothers, Jewish partisans who escaped into the forests of Eastern Europe during the Second World War. Daniel Craig (taking a break from 007 duty) is Tuvia, the leader of a group of refugees who eventually number over a thousand; Liev Schreiber is Zus, the antagonistic warrior; and Jamie Bell is Asael, a peacemaker no less devoted to the survival of the community.
The three performers give life to director Edward Zwick's account of this little-known chapter of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust, which otherwise plays more like a history lesson than a full-blooded movie. The film's best achievement is its strong location work, in Lithuania--as the community makes its home in the forest, the landscape becomes an important player in the drama at hand, and the changing of the seasons is charted with bone-chilling detail.
Schreiber manages to get a little wry humor into this otherwise sober enterprise, and Daniel Craig creates an unusual character: a sort of anti-Bond, a hero whose body is all too fallible and whose decision-making is sometimes hesitant or morally compromised. It's a rare hero in a World War II movie that tends to withdraw from scenes rather than stride into them, but that's what Craig does.
More than likely, the movie's main achievement will be sending the curious to read the histories of the Bielski brothers and why they matter in the chronicles of the Holocaust. --Robert Horton Stills from Defiance (Click for larger image)