Mixed or average reviews - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 34
  2. Negative: 0 out of 34
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  1. It's an exciting action spectacle and a thoughtful, cumulatively moving family drama.
  2. Reviewed by: Gene Newman
    The perfect antidote to the post-holiday blues. It's exciting, well-acted, touching, and genuine.
  3. It's a heroic story, and Zwick frames it rather too strenuously as an antidote to the generic Holocaust stories of Jewish passivity and martyrdom. And yet, as a piece of historical redress, a great service has been done in bringing this narrative to the screen.
  4. 75
    The battle scenes are well choreographed and contain enough uncertainty to make them genuinely exciting, but one would expect no less from a man who has overseen Civil War engagements (Glory) and Japanese strife (The Last Samurai).
  5. Here, Jews are not victims of genocide, but victors in the organized resistance against it.
  6. 75
    Remarkable, unheralded story.
  7. 75
    The film isn't much of a character study; too many of its secondary characters are stereotypes, and it never fully engages our emotions the way "Schindler's List" or "The Pianist" did.
  8. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Defiance says that it took grit, desperation and courage under fire to say, "Not this time," and fire back. Beyond that, it's a pretty good movie -- a bold, uneasy mix of romance, political debate and vigorous action.
  9. 70
    Defiance, as it turns out, makes insistent emotional demands, and those who respond to it at all, as I did, are likely to go all the way and even come out of it feeling slightly stunned.
  10. 70
    It's impossible to watch Defiance without experiencing a vicarious thrill of resistance and revenge.
  11. Zwick offers excitingly staged moments, but once you get past the novelty of WWII Jews acting this heroically macho, Defiance bogs down in a not very well-developed script.
  12. Reviewed by: Josh Rosenblatt
    Zwick may be the definition of a modern blockbuster filmmaker, but he's also spent his entire career struggling to find the balance between opposing impulses – the sentimentalist's desire for emotional-historical heft and the artist's fascination with conflicted humanity – a struggle that's all over Defiance.
  13. Reviewed by: Jason Buchanan
    A Holocaust film that's light on sentimentality but high on human drama, Defiance tells one of those remarkable survival stories that's so incredible it must be true.
  14. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    The tale of the resistance movement in Belorussia is undeniably inspiring and ideally suited for a cinematic rendering. But Defiance resists bold, passionate storytelling and delivers something rather conventional.
  15. 63
    This promising premise is turned into basically an overgrown TV movie.
  16. 63
    The best performance, because it's more nuanced, is by Liev Schreiber. His Zus Bielski is more concerned with the big picture, more ideological, more driven by tactics.
  17. 63
    For all the film's flaws, this is a war story told with passion about a band of brothers that still has the power to inspire.
  18. The film should've aimed higher, given all that these people endured to have their story told.
  19. That butting of heads, as performed by actors as strong and soulful as Craig and Schreiber, lends Defiance an emotional charge, even as the film itself struggles dramatically to find its way out of those woods.
  20. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    It's an inspiring story, if one that doesn't need quite as much poetic inspiration as Ed Zwick's movie insists on giving it, with dialogue that's too often ornate and parable-inflected.
  21. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    There are subtitles and vaguely East European accents; there is romance and rebirth, tears and regular pauses for gallows humor (at which we Jews are known to be very good, on account of our long history of persecution).
  22. Craig, far from James Bond but still swaggering, makes a leathery, craggy commander, and Schreiber - who'll show his full-on action chops this summer in the Hugh Jackman "Wolverine" movie - is tough but sullen. Yet all this old-style moviemaking doesn't always pay off.
  23. Reviewed by: Nev Pierce
    An amazing true tale is somewhat diminished by second-hand storytelling: entirely admirable, largely entertaining, and yet curiously hollow.
  24. 60
    Defiance comes off as plodding and workmanlike -- and even in the midst of Zwick's too-careful machinations, it's a movie that's unsure of what it wants to be.
  25. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    A potentially exceptional story is told in a flatly unexceptional manner.
  26. 50
    Defiance presents itself as an explicit correction of the cultural record, a counterpoint to all those lachrymose World War II tales of helplessness and victimhood. This is a perfectly honorable intention, but the problem is that, in setting out to overturn historical stereotypes of Jewish passivity, Mr. Zwick (who co-wrote the screenplay with Clayton Frohman) ends up affirming them.
  27. Defiance has some genuine strengths but also some weaker elements, and these opposing traits battle it out kind of the way the contentious Bielskis fought not only the Germans but each other.
  28. 50
    There are lots of movies about Jews suffering, dying, and surviving in Europe during World War II, but precious few about Jews fighting back. So why does everything in Defiance feel so doggedly familiar?
  29. Reviewed by: Matthew Sorrento
    A little sentimentality can fuel a lot of action, yet Zwick buries his film in cloying guilt, in the end sinking Defiance with the holocaust film's bait.
  30. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Depressingly predictable in its dialogue and dramatic beats, Defiance is most interesting as a study of unlikely leaders.
  31. As a drama - an epic drama, no less, clocking in at 137 minutes - its fascination is diffused, and the movie becomes something of a long slog.
  32. Zwick, intent on correcting the perception of Jews as passive victims, lets the action set pieces overwhelm the more intimate scenes, several of which are already diminished by stilted dialogue.
  33. 50
    The movie leaves you in an awful tangle of amazement and disbelief: Amazement that Tuvia Bielski did turn a group of civilians into a nimble fighting force and a commune that could defend itself, but disbelief at his accomplishment's stagey and banal rendering.
  34. What is puzzling is how Edward Zwick has taken an extraordinary real-life story about a handful of people who defied huge odds, and turned it into an utterly conventional war movie.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 147 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 47
  2. Negative: 8 out of 47
  1. Sep 27, 2011
    I don't understand the decent reviews. Daniel Craig gives his best in "Defiance", as well as Edward Zwick. He realistically potrays the horrorI don't understand the decent reviews. Daniel Craig gives his best in "Defiance", as well as Edward Zwick. He realistically potrays the horror and advesities the jews had to suffer. Despite the tedious pace, "Defiance" is still a great movie you will want to watch. Full Review »
  2. Mar 26, 2015
    This film is America's way of glorifying unsung heroes of some of the world's darkest eras. I love it, and I doubt I'm alone. The acting isThis film is America's way of glorifying unsung heroes of some of the world's darkest eras. I love it, and I doubt I'm alone. The acting is great, the setting is portrayed perfectly, and it brilliantly balances drama with action and not too much cheese. At the time of my review, its on Netflix so what's there to lose?! Full Review »
  3. Sep 20, 2014
    Defiance proves that not any Holocaust retelling makes for quality film. This one is extremely underwhelming, despite actual promise. ThereDefiance proves that not any Holocaust retelling makes for quality film. This one is extremely underwhelming, despite actual promise. There are moments of intense, genuine drama; however, it's hidden beneath several awkward performances. Full Review »