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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 140 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 45
  2. Negative: 8 out of 45
  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. Oct 27, 2011
    10
    I give this movie a such a high ranking, because it was an incredibly true story that I feel was acted out very well. To think about what those people went through just because they were Jews. It is so sad to see how the world still hates the Jews, including most of the negative reviewers, and for what? They are one of the most peace loving nations on earth; search out the truth about what is going on in their land now, btw you will not hear the truth from the mainstream media (shocker). Anyhow I found this movie to be very engaging and was rooting for them to survive the whole time. Did not feel the foul language was needed and it added nothing to the movie, but to make sure it was R rated. Expand
  3. Sep 27, 2011
    7
    I 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. Expand
  4. Jan 23, 2012
    6
    Les Insurgés était sur le papier un sujet en or, surtout s'il se trouvait entre les mains d'un réalisateur comme Edward Zwick. Malheureusement, le film est bien en dessous de ce que j'attendais... Pourquoi? A cause d'un travail technique (mise en scène entre autre) trop académique? Ce n'est pas dérangeant, au final(il n'y a qu'à voir ce que cela a donné sur l'excellent Le Dernier Samouraï)... Je dirai plutôt que le film se perd surtout dans sa première moitié, qui semble montée à la va-vite et qui fait perdre tout intérêt que l'on puisse porter à cette histoire; et que cela manque d'une bonne BO de qualité (Hans Zimmer sur Le Dernier Samouraï, encore). Heureusement, Les Insurgés n'est pas un film à jeter, grâce à sa seconde partie, bien plus prenante et palpitante. De plus, le film est aidé par un casting honorable. Mais quand même, après avoir vu Blood Diamond, difficile de ne pas être déçu par ce film quasi "brouillon" et quelque peu académique... Expand
  5. Feb 24, 2013
    5
    Defiance is the real life story of the Bielski brothers, who during WWII in Belarus, saved and protected 1200 fellow Jews from the Nazis. The Bielski's never sought recognition for what they did, however the descendents of the people they saved now number in the tens of thousands. The story is truly inspiring, as for the movie, it moved very slowly and like all war stories, was much too long. You quickly see that the story repeats itself over and over again. The film starts off very strong and than just flat-lines. It's a shame, because it's a great cast and an inspiring, relatively unknown story, but it just doesn't go anywhere. Expand
  6. Jul 20, 2014
    4
    Defiance: 4 out of 10: I have a soft spot for director Edward Zwick. I have a real soft spot for his Blood Diamond flick despite its pedestrian script and subconscious racism. In addition, The Last Samurai is another film of his that I loved despite its historical inaccuracies and bizarre lead casting. Defiance shares many of the same endemic faults that plagued those two films. I was not able to brush the faults off this time; I found them even more discordant as the film went on.

    Problem number one is Daniel Craig. He does not look like an Eastern Polish Jew. He looks like he misplaced his Oberstleutnant uniform at the Wehrmacht’s cleaners. Even if you were able to accept Daniel Craig as some sort of Paul Newman style Jew who parachuted into Eastern Europe, only Helen Keller would buy him as Lev Schreiber’s brother. A mutant dancing Australian is a more believable brother for Schreiber than Craig is.

    In fact, Craig and Schreiber seem to be in two different films and Schreiber is in the much better one. Schreiber seems to be in the here and now with a strong subtle performance that is the best thing in the film. Daniel Craig’s performance is as shaky as his accent. He, of course, is forced to do things like give Braveheart speeches from the back of a white horse, so the fault is hardly his alone. And saying platitudes such as “Our vengeance is to live" and "Every day of freedom is like an act of faith" while gazing at the camera with those, just give me an Oscar and I will go back to entertaining you, baby blues doesn't help his cause either.

    Problem number Two is best summarized by one of my favorite ladies I don't think we really need another film about the Holocaust, do we? It is like, how many have there been, you know. We get it. It was grim. Move on. No, I am doing it because I have noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust you are guaranteed an Oscar ... That is why I am doing it. Schindler's bloody List. The Pianist. Oscars coming out of their arse.

    — Kate Winslet (Winner of the 2008 Best Actress Oscar for Holocaust drama The Reader) in Extras, 2005

    Defiance is clearly Oscar bait. In one scene Daniel “Moses” Craig leads his people through the reeds and swamps and away from the forest (and inexplicably away from decent cover and fortifications) until a Rabbi collapses, sputters out "I almost lost my faith but you were sent by God to save us” and then promptly dies... oy vey. It really is not that easy to make a mainstream Holocaust film, release it in December, and get no nominations* for Golden Globes or Oscars. Defiance is clearly trying too hard.

    The third problem is that a third rate cast of Fiddler on the Roof somehow showed up lost in the woods. Somebody call the Jewish stereotype prison, cause there has been a mass escape. Everyone is here. The nebbish intellectual who cannot hammer a nail, the passive Jews who are unwilling to fight, the greedy Jew more interested in money than his fellow man. Good lord, it is as if Leni Reisenthal’s travelling troop of stereotypes showed up. Thank goodness, Daniel Craig is here to straighten them all out and lead them to the Promised Land. Yup blond blue eyed Daniel Craig…. Yeah the movie has issues.

    *No nominations except, inexplicably, for its score; which at two hours of crying violins will test any ones nerves.
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  7. Aug 19, 2010
    2
    Irritating and self important. The Bielski brothers deserved better! The main problems lie in it's melodrama. When the film does action scenes they're actually alright. But they're the only satisfying part of it and even then look like they're on a set. Wouldn't blame the director or even actors for this, I would blame the producer who greenlit this for a hollywood studio despite it clearly needing a different style then what hollywoods accustomed to Expand

See all 45 User Reviews

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