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3½ Stars - Good
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Mpaa Rating
R (for violence and language)
Directed By
Edward Zwick
Run Time
2 hours 17 minutes
Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos
Theatre Release
January 16, 2009 by Paramount Vantage

From The Diary of Anne Frank and Sophie's Choice to Schindler's List and The Pianist, there have literally been hundreds of films depicting the Jewish Holocaust. Most depict the Jews as helpless victims, unable to defend themselves from horrifying adversity and oppression. But sometimes they fought back.

Such is the case in Defiance, based on the book of the same name by Nechama Tec. The film focuses on the story of the Bielski partisans in Eastern Europe. Many irregular military groups formed in opposition to Nazi occupation, using guerrilla tactics to stay alive and hamper German operations. Most of these partisans involved local fighters from around Russia and Yugoslavia—loosely formed, but experienced soldiers nonetheless. The Bielski partisans were comparatively untrained civilians, based in what is now Belarus (between Poland and Russia), yet they still grew into the largest group of Jewish partisans during the Second World War.

The film begins in 1941 with the aftermath of the raid on the Bielski family farm; thankfully, the audience is spared this monstrous act of violence. Watching from the nearby woods until the Nazis leave, Brothers Zus (Liev Schreiber) and Asael (Jamie Bell) quickly recover whatever they can—including their youngest brother Aron (George MacKay), also in hiding—before burying their family and retreating back into the forest. They're soon reunited with their eldest brother Tuvia (Daniel Craig), who has returned home to check up on the family.

It isn't long before the Bielski brothers discuss (and exact) revenge on those responsible for murdering their family … but what then? Where can they go as the persecution spreads? As they continue to make camp in the woods and raid local ...

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