Review: Defiance, Directed by Edward Zwick

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Starring Daniel Craig, Jaime Bell, and Liev Schreiber, Defiance (2009), an addition to the plethora of Holocaust and World War II films recently released, is about the Bielski Otriad, a group of Jewish partisans, survivors of Nazi pogroms in Poland. Based on the true story of four brothers who helped save over 1,200 Jews from the Nazis and their Polish collaborators, Defiance, directed by Edward Zwick, is a worthy film that attempts to portray Jews not as victims but as heroes, fighters, and survivors.

Several examples of scenes contribute to this depiction. Some of these principal scenes show that the Otriad’s reputation precedes them. Other scenes include their comparison with the David and Goliath Biblical story and when Tuvia (Daniel Craig) is associated with Moses.

However, there are other scenes that detract from Zwick’s valiant attempt at portraying the Jews as heroes and survivors. These scenes principally involve the Russians, who are at times depicted as brothers in the fight against the Germans and at other times as a people just as evil and anti-semitic as the Germans.

At the end of the film, the Jewish Otriad is back to the position they started in at the beginning of the film; they are being hunted by the Germans and they are without the help of the Russians, thus becoming victims once again. However, Tuvia and Zus (Liev Schreiber) are reunited to the tune of celebratory music and soothing chords, providing the audience with a sense of hope and optimism that is only a small beacon in a sea of films that portray Jews as victims.