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Mixed or average reviews - based on 34 Critics What's this?

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5.7

Mixed or average reviews- based on 143 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Based on an extraordinary true story, Defiance is an epic tale of family, honor, vengeance and salvation in World War II. (Paramount Vantage)
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 34
  2. Negative: 0 out of 34
  1. It's an exciting action spectacle and a thoughtful, cumulatively moving family drama.
  2. 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).
  3. 70
    It's impossible to watch Defiance without experiencing a vicarious thrill of resistance and revenge.
  4. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    63
    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.
  5. Reviewed by: Nev Pierce
    60
    An amazing true tale is somewhat diminished by second-hand storytelling: entirely admirable, largely entertaining, and yet curiously hollow.
  6. 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?
  7. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    50
    Depressingly predictable in its dialogue and dramatic beats, Defiance is most interesting as a study of unlikely leaders.

See all 34 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 46
  2. Negative: 8 out of 46
  1. Jul 7, 2013
    10
    Daniel Craig will always be associated with the James Bond film franchise having tackled the lead role in two highly successful Bond movies (with a few more on the horizon). Craig's superb as the super-spy and boy can he handle action scenes. But Craig's not just Bond. He's taken on a diverse collection of film roles over the past 15 years, delivering outstanding performances as a killer in Infamous, a member of the Israeli team assembled after the massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich, and a business man never referred to by name whose plans for retirement from the drug trade are put on hold in Layer Cake. Craig adds yet another exceptional performance to his resume with his starring role in the dramatic thriller, Defiance, set in 1941. Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond) and adapted for the screen by Zwick and Clay Frohman from the non-fiction book by Nechama Tec, Defiance tells the true story of three brothers Tuvia, Zus and Asael Bielski who beat incredible odds and ultimately kept thousands of Jews safe from being murdered by the Nazis and their supporters. Defiance is an absolutely heartbreaking and heroic tale, and one that hadn't seen the light of day on the big screen prior to this film. The real Bielski brothers never sought fame or recognition for their bravery and so this is one true story that will be new to most moviegoers. And it's definitely one that deserves to be shared with a worldwide audience as the Bielskis accomplished the near-impossible and saved untold lives. Tuvia (Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), and Asael Bielski (Jamie Bell) escaped into the forest surrounding their family's home in Stankevich (now Belarus) after discovering Nazi collaborators had murdered their parents. Farmers by trade, the brothers were capable, resourceful men able to live off the land. But the Bielskis didn't just want to hide out and try to survive the massacre of their fellow Jewish citizens. The brothers wanted to avenge the deaths of their family and friends and did so by saving men, women, children, and the elderly from falling into the hands of the Nazis and their supporters. At the urging (basically under the direct order of) Tuvia, the oldest brother, anyone seeking food and shelter was accepted into the Bielskis' shelter in the forest. Zus initially wasn't a supporter of Tuvia's plan to take in all refugees, believing they would weaken the group's chances at survival. But Tuvia prevailed and the gathering grew into a society of 1,000+ people, all tasked with working to help the group survive. Temporary housing was built, booby traps were set out to protect the camp, and those capable of handling a gun patrolled the settlement's perimeter. The refugees survived by dealing with farmers and other merchants sympathetic to their situation as well as stealing resources meant for the army. Tuvia, the group's leader, did whatever was necessary to keep order in this makeshift community. He had strict rules everyone in the community had to adhere to and punishment for disobeying could be brutal. But whatever Tuvia did, he did for the good of this group which became known as the Bielski otriad. Thousands who would have perished in the Holocaust lived as the direct result of his actions. Surprisingly, the fact Craig, Schreiber, and Bell in no way resemble brothers doesn't distract from the film. Craig and Schreiber play tough as nails men who butt heads but also obviously love and respect each other. Jamie Bell is slight in build and seems slightly out of place, but his presence is strong enough to carry off the part of the younger brother who finds love in this makeshift community. I haven't read Nechama Tec's book, Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, and so I can't say with any certainty how closely Zwick and Frohman stuck to the source material. As with most films based on books, artistic license was probably taken to make the story flow cinematically. In interviews, Craig and Schreiber said in actuality there was much more brutality and killing than is portrayed in the film. And I have to believe Zwick and Frohman added in more romance than Tec's book revealed. But the basic story is supposedly much the same as how it played out back in 1941. It's incredible to me that I knew nothing about this story after all these years and all these tales of heroics by Germans keeping Jewish citizens safe (such as recounted in Schindler's List). Filmed in the forest outside of Vilnius, Lithuania instead of on a soundstage to add as much realism as possible to this retelling of the Bielskis' story, Defiance is a compelling human drama of revenge, honor, hope, and survival. It's also an engaging action film, although the action never overwhelms the story. Craig, Schreiber and Bell give performances that remind us this is above all the story of men making a stand during one of the bleakest moments in history. Collapse
  2. ROBERTM.
    Jan 16, 2009
    10
    My wife and I found this movie to be totally riveting; the audience of mostly 55+ Arizonans applauded at the movies conclusion. Your reviewers seem to rate on the "artistic value" of the movie. Sometimes a true story, well-told is preferred by the "lesser forms of life" out here in flyover country. Expand
  3. ZachB.
    Feb 8, 2009
    9
    Defiance is a passionate, breathtaking, inspiring World War II movie. I have seen many World War II movies and this by far is right up there with Schindlers List at number 2. I am not a big Saving Private Ryan fan but Defiance has much more concept and meaning this movie shows how the hope of three brothers can bring thousands of people together and to act in Defiance. Edward Zwick really captures the full feeling of World War II. The movie's plot and story is also carried throught by absolutely exceptional acting from jamie bell daniel craig and Liev Shrieber. This movie is a must see and me being a jew and my grandfather having experienced World War II this movie to me was a mesmerizing film and one of the best of 08. Expand
  4. CarlosT
    Aug 2, 2009
    7
    This was an extremely compelling story to tell, but subpar acting is what mostly kept it from being great. It was great how many of the secondary characters did get some attention as those actors seemed to do a much better job than the main ones. The action sequences were very well done and very enjoyable, however there is always some doubt as to how the Bielskis ever became so good at fighting even though they were only farmers. Overall, it is a good first attempt on an untold, but powerful story. Expand
  5. Jun 22, 2013
    6
    I wouldn't go out of my way to watch it again. Defiance is a fairly run of the mill film that, considering the subject matter, is not as inspiring or emotionally intense as it could have been. The plot just seems to move along without being able to grab you and pull you in to the plight of the Bielski group, despite the deaths and suffering of it's members. Also, the plot doesn't really feature any twists, none in fact, so any increase in excitement or suspense is really limited.

    The acting scores a plus for the film, if you are prepared to accept some fluctuating Eastern European accents. All three leads turn in good performances but the supporting cast of Alexa Davalos and Allan Corduner are more than worthy of equal mention.

    A well made and acted film that surprisingly lacks in genuine drama and emotion.
    Expand
  6. Aug 26, 2011
    5
    A remarkable true story is left as a rather pedestrian and uninspired action flick in the hands of director Edward Zwick. We are left with routine drama and routine action, with self-important imagery and dialogue to lift itself above that. Expand
  7. [Anonymous]
    Jan 3, 2009
    0
    Belongs on TV at 3am. Low budget, badly cast predictable and over-produced soap opera of the forest.

See all 46 User Reviews

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