Hack director Edward Zwick directs Daniel Craig in this sloppily-told story of three Jewish brothers who fought the Germans in Poland during the Second World War. After their parents are killed, oldest brother Tuvia (Craig) and his two younger siblings Zus (Schreiber) and Asael (Bell) retreat to the forest, where they fight for survival against an imposing German occupation. Soon, word gets around that Tuvia has built an asylum in the woods, and persecuted Jews begin to turn up in their hundreds as the brothers struggle to take care of everyone, and avoid in-fighting. Essentially an interesting story poorly told, Defiance could not be pandering more to the Academy if it turned out that Daniel Craig's character was also suffering from AIDS, after swiftly being crippled by a mysterious disease that would later be named after him. There is one (utterly pointless) character in particular who spends the entire movie coughing, then finally buys the farm in one of the most ridiculously elongated scenes in recent memory. You've seen this type of stuff having the piss taken out of it in Tropic Thunder - but to much more entertaining effect. The main problem here is the sledgehammer-style heavy helming from a director who chooses weighty material he doesn't have the ability to pull off. It's the kind of film that someone like Michael Mann could've have made beautifully; instead, it's abruptly directed when subtlety is called for, and this, in turn, doesn't help the actors. Not that the performances are bad; all three leads equip themselves admirably, but Zwick commits the unforgiveable crime of overusing the score, which undermines his fine actors' hard work. Schreiber is one of the most underrated character actors currently appearing on celluloid, while Craig is a proper actor treading the movie star line because of Bond, and he's effective here, rarely letting the accent slip. The real surprise is Jamie Bell, who is easily the best thing on show - no mean feat when you look at the calibre of the cast. Slightly less than bang average, this is an often clichéd look at a fascinating part of World War II.
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