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Directed by Edward Zwick.
Written by Clayton Frohman and Edward Zwick.  Based on the book "Defiance: The Bielski Partisans" by Nechama Tec.
Starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  1/23/09


I love Ed Zwick movies, so it should come as no surprise that the man who gave us "Glory", "Blood Diamond" and "The Last Samurai" comes through again with "Defiance", based on a true story.

Mr. Zwick loves a good history lesson, so he appears to revel in the details of the story of three brothers (Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell) who help dozens of Jews in Belorussia escape being sent to concentration camps by hiding out in the forest after their family is slaughtered by the SS.  Over the course of many months, the Bielski brothers build their own camp in the forest, making soldiers out of accountants, teachers, doctors and laborers while trying to live their way of life and staying out of harm's way.

"Defiance" is a drama, but it's a testament to other Zwick films that he always finds a way to squeeze a few laughs in-between cloudy skies and a decent number of action set pieces.  I also liked the language mix, not because it appeared to be authentic (I honestly don't know), but because there are scenes where people are speaking Russian to Russians, German to Germans, and then English when Jews are speaking to other Jews in the forest.  It appeared that the film found a way to be consistent within the film, even if it may or may not have been completely accurate.  The three leads are great, but our bit players add just enough to their one-note caricatures (the accountant is a political nerd; there's naturally a goon amongst the good guys who is always eyeing up someone else's female, etc.) to make the scenes that don't feature Craig/Schreiber/Bell consistently entertaining.  The scenery and the score (Oscar-nominated) are strong, and I liked the half-dozen action scenes, even if they aren't as good as the pieces in "Blood Diamond" or "The Last Samurai."

Meg and I thought this was a very solid but unspectacular film.  A great time at the theater, and this helps me to (sort-of) forget "The Unborn."

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/28/09