There's nothing wrong with it, but I can't be all that enthusiastic about it.
The last time I wrote about Edward Zwick around these parts, he was corralling professional shortarse Tom Cruise around the mildly racist yet largely enjoyable The Last Samurai. Returning after a visit to Sierra Leone in Blood Diamond, he's directed another mix of persecution and armed struggle as a group of Jews in Belorussia are forced into hiding in the woods after Nazis annexe the land and start with their unique brand of zany genocidal hi-jinx.
Deciding that imprisonment and eventual execution isn't the most immediately appealing lifestyle choice, the Bielski family decide to vanish into the local forests which they know so well, having seemingly had a prior existence as smugglers. Elder brothers Tuvia (Daniel Craig) and Zus (Liev Schreiber) soon come to blows over the best way to help themselves and the increasing number of refugees headed into their stomping grounds. Tuvia, rather reluctantly, decides that the best option is to hunker down, build a camp and try to survive, protecting their increasing numbers and their younger brother Asael (Jamie Bell). Zus would rather take more direct action, soon splintering off with a few like-minded fellows to join the local partisan resistance movement.
And so it goes, with the camp struggling to survive on the minimal food 'donated' by local farmers and trying to build a new life while harrying and being harried by the Nazis, occasionally having to up sticks and move en masse to other sites. Whatever the Bielski family's transgressions before the war, their manifold acts of selfless bravery more than make up for it. Seemingly content to shuffle off into history and never seek acclaim for their actions, one wonders what they'd have made of this film. Come to think of it, one wonders what I make of this film.
It's well acted, with the possible exception of the return of the 'Allo 'Allo accent brigade to signify that everyone is speaking in Foreign while speaking in English. It's action scenes are well-considered and executed. The characters are more complicated than the clean-cut heroism of war films of old. I have few, if any bad things to say about or bones to pick with this film.
Trouble is, I just can't bring myself to be overly enthusiastic about it either. It's a solid story to base a film around and all, but just like everyone would up tiring of video games based on World War Two, I'm tiring of films based on it. It really needs something to pep it up and add some zing to it. I'd suggest were-zombies or reverse vampires.
I am now babbling to fill space. Well, more so than is usual, at any rate. Thing is, while given the whole Holocaust thing this isn't exactly the most laugh-a-minute thrill ride of a film, it's well put together, often tense and often rather positive film that I liked, regardless of general over-familiarity with the stories of the timeframe, albeit not this particular story. I think, rather like Warlords, that it's a film where the overwhelming colourscape of browny-gray is just a little too browny-gray for its own good. Look, it's a prejudice and it's my problem, not Defiance's. I'll get myself off to a support group and work through my issues.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.
Liev Schreiber (Zus Bielski)
Jamie Bell (Asael Bielski)
Alexa Davalos (Lilka Ticktin)