Defiance (2008)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Defiance</strong> (2008)

(In theaters, February 2009) In time, no single aspect of World War 2 won’t be turned into a movie, and this little-know story of resistance in the Polish backwoods is often more interesting than you’d expect. When small-time bandits turn their survival skills to the protection of Jewish refugees, the film becomes an amalgam of war drama, small-scale action and survival Robinsonade. Daniel Craig is effective in the lead role, lending his increasing Bondish gravitas to a film that sorely needs it. Elsewhere, the heavy hand of Hollywood movie-making can be seen rewriting history for maximum thrills (such as a tank battle with a nick-of-time rescue) and buffing up small characters into exposition mouthpieces. Defiance seldom shies away from underscoring whatever mood the film wants audiences to feel, and the result often ends up feeling forced. The interplay between the various groups involved in the story (Nazis, sympathizers, Polish-Jewish elders, Russian resistance, etc.) merely hints at the complexity of the true story. But even discounting the manipulation, Defiance still manages to feel like solid entertainment with a dash of history: Edward Zwick is comfortable with historical dramas, and the result is not too unpleasant once you stop identifying with the horrid conditions in which the characters spend most of the film. There are worse films out there, even in the limited “footnotes of WW2” sub-genre.

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