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Vol. LXIII, No. 3
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

BIELSKI BROTHERS LEAD THE POLISH PARTISANS AGAINST THE NAZIS: Two of the four Bielski brothers, Tuvia (Daniel Craig, right) and Asael (Jamie Bell), who are hiding in the Nalibocka forest in Belorussia, discuss ways in which they can rescue their fellow Jews from the genocide of the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.

Defiance: Holocaust Film Chronicles Jewish Resistance in Poland

Kam Williams

In 2006, the film Black Book portrayed a different type of Holocaust movie by showing the Jews as resistance fighters rather than passive victims of genocide. With Defiance, director Edward Zwick recounts the heroic exploits of a courageous band of guerillas (partisans) who managed to escape from the ghettos of Poland and then staged daring raids into Nazi-occupied territory to rescue other imperiled Jews.

Led by the Beilski brothers, Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Asael (Jamie Bell), Zus (Lieve Schreiber), and Aron (George Mackay), the group established a camp deep in the Nalibocka forest in Belorussia, where 1,230 refugees from the Nazis endured more than two years of incredible hardship until they were liberated by the Russian Army in 1944. During its existence, only about 150 of the partisans actually participated in combat against the Nazis, since 70 percent of the refugees were women, children, and the elderly.

Based on the best seller of the same name by Nechama Tec, Defiance is an epic tale that explores a variety of universal themes ranging from vengeance to salvation. Although we find the protagonists primarily pitted against the enemy and the elements in their desperate day-to-day struggle simply to survive, the picture also illustrates that they never lost touch with their humanity. So, we see the Beilskis involved in mundane matters involving questions about family, love, loyalty, and philosophy.

Unfortunately, despite the acting by the principal cast, the director’s decision to inject distracting personal drama into the production means that the film lacks the cinematic momentum necessary to generate the type of tension which made Black Book a hit. The upshot is that Defiance is a movie that pays a belated tribute to some unsung heroes of World War II. However the film is more of interest historically than it is entertaining.

Very Good (2½ stars) Rated R for profanity and violence. Running time: 137 minutes. Studio: Paramount Vantage.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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