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Movie Review

Defiance a.k.a. “Opór,” “Uhma”

MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
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Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
War, History, Drama
Length:
2 hr. 17 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
December 31, 2008 (select theaters)
January 16, 2009 (wide—1,500 theaters)
Copyright, Paramount Vantage Copyright, Paramount Vantage Copyright, Paramount Vantage Copyright, Paramount Vantage Copyright, Paramount Vantage Copyright, Paramount Vantage Copyright, Paramount Vantage Copyright, Paramount Vantage Copyright, Paramount Vantage Copyright, Paramount Vantage
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Paramount Vantage

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer

War in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Anger in the Bible

Fear and anxiety

Fear, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer

Sin and the Bible

Do Not Enter

Death

Final judgment

Eternal life—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

Racism

What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Racial Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

Persecuted church—Why and how should we pray for suffering Christians? Answer

A single man or woman can help change the world. Read about some who did with faith and God’s help…
Jesus Christ, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David

Featuring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos, George MacKay, Tomas Arana, Rolandas Boravskis, Allan Corduner, Mark Feuerstein, Iddo Goldberg, Iben Hjejle, Jacek Koman, Mark Margolis, Jodhi May, Sam Spruell, Sakalas Uzdavinys, Markus von Lingen, Mia Wasikowska
Director: Edward Zwick
“Blood Diamond,” “The Last Samurai”
Producer: The Bedford Falls Company, Grosvenor Park Productions, Pistachio Pictures, Alex Boden, Pieter Jan Brugge, Alisa Katz, Andrew Litvin, Troy Putney, Roland Tec, Gary Tuck, Edward Zwick
Distributor: Paramount Vantage

“Courage is the ultimate weapon.”

This film is based on the book Defiance: the Bielski Partisans by Nechama Tec.

With the harsh backdrop of the actual forest this true story took place in, exceptional performances by Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Allan Corduner and Alexa Davalos, and a musical score full of power and emotion by James Newton Howard, “Defiance” delivers a compelling message for the world today.

As most anyone knows, it takes months and sometimes years to produce a film from concept to premiere. At the time Edward Zwick and Clayton Frohman took to turning the book Defiance: the Bielski Partisans by Nechama Tec into a motion picture, Israel was still doing it’s best to keep the peace with the territory known az Gaza and the terrorist faction known as Hamas. It is my personal belief, that God has allowed this film to arrive on the scene with His perfect timing. For it is now, when Israel is defending that which God has given her with His blessing, that a curious and sometimes hateful world needs to know the history and the warnings from it’s past.

Anti-Semitism is a cruel action born out of fear and propaganda, and, as history is known to repeat itself, let us not forget its fruits. Remember that fear begets hatred, and hatred begets violence, and violence will not just destroy but destroy utterly. Watch “Defiance” with that one concept in mind, if for nothing else.

Backstory from “Defiance” Web site, an excellent source of information:

Jews were always the minority in Germany, with different customs and traditions, which made them targets for prejudice. When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in the 1930’s, he took this prejudice to an extreme. Hitler blamed the Jews for the country losing World War 1, and economic hardships that had unemployment at 50%. Hitler established laws that prevented Jews from receiving an education beyond the age of 14, and he made it illegal for any Jewish citizen to practice law, medicine or journalism.

This was only the beginning.

When Germany started World War 2, Hitler had ambitions to take over the world, and attacking all Jews who he felt were an “inferior species.” Before World War 2, there were 9 million Jews living in Europe. By the end of the war, 6 million were killed.

Although in the mind of Hitler, he believed he could erase the Jewish peoples from existence, and even in the mind of terrorist groups like Hamas and Al Queda, they believe they can rule the world and wipe Christians from the face of the Earth, God’s promises are clear and His word never fails.

The Lord has permanently established Israel as a people and as a nation. (See Genesis 12:3; 22:18 and 28:14). Their security is as sure as the security He promises to all Christians in Romans 8.

It is unclear as to whether the Bielski brothers were thinking this when they found themselves in the Lipinaska forests of their native home, involuntarily charged with the care of nearly 1000 people in the fall of 1941, but for Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) it would change his life forever and make him a better man for eternity. For his brothers, Zus (Liev Schreiber) and Asael (Jamie Bell), it caused conflict within their dynamic, but ultimately brought them closer together as family and as men.

“Defiance” takes us through the beginnings of the formation of the forest camp society which eventually turned into the largest known group of survivors of Jews evading Hitler’s army. This is not only a story of the struggles of the group, but the personal story of the brothers, their different, sometimes clashing personalities, and the hard decisions that must be made in the face of survival.

As in any story dealing with war and it’s violence, this is not a movie for children. It is an adult drama dealing with adult situations. There are very disturbing (sometimes actual footage) of people getting beaten, shot or stabbed. There is a scene showing dozens upon dozens of dead bodies piled high in ditches dug for mass graves. There are also scenes that children are not prepared to deal with on an emotional level, such as hard decisions made as to whether it is right to shoot a man in self defense in order to survive or out of blind revenge, or to look away as an angry crowd beats a German soldier to death. There are a couple of kisses shared between people who love one another, and one scene where Tuvia and his soon to be wife, Lilka (Alexa Davalos) are shown under some blankets, which infers they have just made love.

There are several uses of the f-word and a sprinkling of swear words such as bi**h,a**, a**holes and a reference to balls, in speaking of the male anatomy. There are ruthless men, as well as honorable ones. The ruthless are often shown taking sexual advantage of the women or reference to have done so. The act of sex outside of marriage is given the nick name of “taking a forest wife,” although marriages are shown to have taken place and are done so in a reverent manner.

For all the violence and realistic portrayals of battle and bloodshed, in order to survive, “Defiance” has a basic moral strength, and that is that it is rooted in Jewish laws, customs and values. It underscores beautifully that the basic joys of life and faith can survive, because a society, no matter how small or large, depends on God as their strength.

Tuvia’s speech to this band of survivors said it best. He says to use your strength in God as your Jawbone, as David’s slingshot, like the Maccabees, they were brave men and women fighting for their freedom to exist. He urges them, even though they are being forced to live like animals, not to become animals—not to take a life in revenge, for their act of revenge would be to live. As every day is an act of freedom, because they choose to live. To show compassion, take only what is needed, and only from people who have enough to share it. In a time where there was no law, the Law of God, the Word of God is what would keep them human. Sacrifice for the good of all. The strong must always take care of the weak. They moved through the forest, just before Passover to evade the German Army and certain death, taking their cue from Moses, who moved the Children of Israel out of Egypt at Passover, so that Pharaoh could not overtake them.

For all that Hitler tried to accomplish, he was brought to his own demise, and not because of any man-based act, but from the hand of God. At the conclusion of “Defiance,” it states that these 1200 souls survived in the forests for two more years. And out of those valiant and brave people, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren number in the 10’s of thousands.

God’s commandments shall always endure, make no doubt about that.

God formally gave His Covenant with Abram in Genesis 15:7-12, and universally to all in Genesis 22:18 and 28:14. His word is clear on two points. One is that He has given the Land of Israel to his chosen peoples, and two is that He will curse those who curse Israel (Genesis 12:3; 27:29 and Numbers 24:8-9).

These promises are not just found in the Old Testament, but are found in Matthew 25:31-46, as well. God’s blessing or cursing of the peoples of the world, largely is determined by their behavior toward Israel. Jesus’ statements in Matthew 25 promise blessing to saved Gentiles who will stand with Israel. Also, the fact that God promised to give Abraham’s physical descendants the land Canaan forever and the covenant for an everlasting covenant demands that Israel never perish as a people. This divine covenant is not dependent on human obedience, but on the faithfulness of God and His Word.

Take note of what “Defiance” says about human history, for we may be seeing the very tip of this ugly iceberg, even now as Christians throughout the world have been subject to everything from making it illegal to pray in public schools to beheading for practicing Christianity in other countries.

Let us not forget, that it doesn’t take much to change the tide under the rule of a dictator in a foreign country or even the misrepresentation of laws in our own land.

Let this film, and others like it who are not afraid to relate the real story, warn that in the human heart it is possible to allow history to repeat itself. God alerts us in His Word, as well as thousands of true accounts that can be researched on fine Web sites such as “A Teacher’s Guide To The Holocost” at:
http://fcit.usf.edu/HOLOCAUST/RESOURCE/website.htm
I recommend we all read, study and commit them to memory… lest we forget.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I entered the theater in one frame of mind and departed in quite another. I drove home angry at myself for having complained about my problems in life: Bad back; budget shortfalls; home renovations where the plaster and paint did not turn out exactly the way we hoped; et cetera I concluded that “I don’t have any real problems.” “Defiance” is no fantasy concocted by Hollywood writers. This is real life. In real life, people can have everything taken from them and have an enormously difficult struggle just to live through one more day.

Material things can be taken away in an instant. We place too much emphasis on these things. What remains is Faith. Faith provides the courage to continue on when all else is gone. Jesus is trying to tell us exactly that Luke 12:34, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

I recommend this film in the strongest possible terms—especially if you’re feeling life hasn’t treated you fairly, and you’re not getting things you want. This film reveals how materialistic and superficial our lives can become. After seeing this film ask yourself “Just how bad are my problems?” If you’re honest, the answer should be—“not very.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—L. J. Capobianco, age 67 (USA)
Positive—I have been looking forward to this film for months, and I was not disappointed. In a statement on the film’s Web site, and in a new foreword to the (true) book this film was based on, the director has stated that his hope was to buck the stereotype of Jews as passive victims who just let themselves be run over during the Holocaust. In this, he succeeds.

There are some very good lines that uphold the God of the Old Testament. “So you think you’re Moses?” “I almost lost my faith, but you were sent by God to save us…”

The film does earn its R rating for “violence and language.” The f-word and s-word show up several times, and the violence is sometimes bloody. There is no explicit sexual content, although there are a few suggestive moments. Content-wise, this is similar to some of Zwick’s other films, such as “Glory,” “Blood Diamond,” and “The Last Samurai.” Like “Glory,” it shows us a side of history that isn’t well-known. My family and I thought it was a film worth seeing both before and after we saw it. See the film, read the story behind the film, and learn that even in the midst of the worst conditions, God always leaves a remnant!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—John Stanifer, age 23 (USA)
Positive—My wife and I saw this movie, and it was fantastic; I plan on taking my highschooler to see it. It is the best movie that I have seen in awhile that has come out of Hollywood. It doesn’t have the flirty or sexual acts, jokes and innuendos that are common in many PG-13 rated movies, that I will not allow my daughter to see. This movie is based on a true story, and the casting is fantastic, as well as the realism. There is some language and lots of violence or action scenes to tell the story. The language seemed natural and not added just for effect or shock, for the most part, and it was reasonable, and may be awkward without at least some during times of stress or normal life, although some of it could have been removed.

The violence was not gory, but it does have people who get shot, but it was not excessive to me, and I thought they did it in a way that was part of the story without being more bloody than what was necessary to tell this story. If I was a parent, then I would always watch first to make sure it is okay for your teenager. I see high school as a transition to adulthood and firming up your teen’s worldview. A realistic view of history, in my opinion, is necessary. Consider watching it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Gary, age 42 (USA)
Positive—We really like this movie; it was hard to watch, at times, because under pressure of survival the human attitude and behavior change dramatically without the Lord. There was powerful acting all the way through the movie, very impressive scene with emotions, etc.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—David, age 34 (Canada)
Positive—I have said this before, and I will say it again. Any movie that DOES NOT take the Lord’s name in vain is at least worth considering and is “better than average” not just “average” as this site suggests. Just try finding a movie or a book that doesn’t. My wife and I saw this near the end of its run and the theater was still packed. When we first saw the movie trailer (a year previous) we could not wait to see it. It was exactly what we expected it to be.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jay, age 35 (Canada)
Positive—I very much enjoyed this film. It was very violent, but genuinely moving. Its redeeming qualities far out way its flaws or questionable content. I would recommend this movie for adult Christian audiences with the caveat that this is a war movie with some very descriptive violence. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jimmy, age 34 (USA)
Positive—Aside from the few swear words and a few mild sexual comments I enjoyed this movie. The reality of this movie broke my heart, I cried, Smiled and was totally moved by the acting and the characters they were portraying. This is a movie that will touch anyone with a heart and soul. The Jews suffered so much in those days and here you see good people who help them and people that kill them… it’s a hard time for anyone who lived in this era but this movie actually makes you smile at the few good people willing to risk their lives to save others. Vengeance is not the answer is definitely portrayed and some things you may not agree with, but the overall feel of this movie will leave you breathless and wanting to find out more. It’s a drama worth watching!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sherrie O’Brien, age 32 (Canada)
Positive—I have said this before, and I will say it again. Any movie that DOES NOT take the Lord’s name in vain is at least worth considering and is “better than average” not just “average”… Just try finding a movie or a book that doesn’t. My wife and I saw this near the end of its run and the theater was still packed. When we first saw the movie trailer (a year previous) we could not wait to see it. It was exactly what we expected it to be.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jay, age 35 (Canada)
Neutral
Neutral—My initial reaction following the proverbial rolling of the credits was “this feels like a movie I would have made.” I still can’t shake that feeling. After much thinking, I can attribute this overriding perception to the film’s scenery, which is largely marred by constancy: a sunny and/or wintry forest… interminably so. Now, I know with absolute moral certainty, I would use the same copout if I had a meager budget. “Hey guys! Let’s shoot a bunch of scenes… in the dorm rooms.” …Yeah. “Defiance,” according to Wiki, had a budget of 50 mil. Not exactly begging for table scraps with a tidy sum like that are we? Yet, the entire movie (well, virtually the whole movie) is set to an unending montage of trees, snow, and more trees. Did I mention logs as well?

Aside from the backyard film project feel, I have to give credit where it is due. The reason for the 2+ hour journey through Endor’s moon is twofold. First, the story takes place there. Okay, that’s fair. Second, “Defiance”—heralded as based on a true story—was filmed at “the scene of the crime.” Ergo credit where it is due; i.e. authenticity.

Whew. Two last spiels before I step down from my soap box.

Daniel Craig will be forever typecast as James Bond. I personally couldn’t ford the mental disconnect between Tuvia Bielski and the aforementioned. When you see Craig as Tuvia in this film, you’ll understand why. There’s little distinction between the two roles (both serve justice with an attitude fit for the ol’ west—swift, indifferent), save maybe an English-diluted Russian accent.

The rest of the cast was just kinda there. I didn’t feel anything for them, maybe because Defiance refused to be candid. Too much of it felt surreal and forced. Fittingly enough though, I felt like I was reliving many of my idle hours at age 17 and rocking Medal of Honor: Allied Assault on the PC. WWII era first player shooter game complete with the token wintry forest levels. What’s changed this time around is I’m a little older, a tad fatter, and spared of the loading times. All I had to do was pay my admission and sit in the seat. I suppose there’s some replay value to that.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Jacob Keenum, age 22 (USA)
Negative
Negative—Perhaps this film should be given an award simply for the idea or story behind it, because it was not up to par. When dealing with a subject matter such as this, one should not have such a difficult time conveying emotion or heart felt scenes as Edward Zwick did in this film. Nor should it be difficult to to truly see the life of this revolution carried out. The film is literally 140 minutes long, and the climax is a battle scene followed by our heroes continuing to wander off into the woods. We see nothing of the Bielski brothers before their last ditch effort of escaping into the woods, no background of who they are, their families or who they care for, and we are given no closure but two lines explaining that they out lasted the Germans.

Unfortunately, going in, we all knew that would be the case, otherwise it wouldn’t be such a great story would it. And, unfortunately, it’s difficult to care about someone dying when you haven’t even seen their face (two times random men walked onto the screen to tell Zus and Tuvia their wives and children were dead, and we never saw them, nor did we see anyone outside of the woods, not even the antagonist, the Germans). What we didn’t get to see were the years and years they spent, the churches and nurseries they built, and the schools, and ultimately their emergence from the most horrifying endeavor of their lives. What, as far as I’m concerned, should have been the climax. Not the defeat of 30 militia and a tank, followed by more woods…

In all, Zwick spent 140 minutes showing us how how these holocaust survivors spent one winter sitting in the woods. That is ultimately what it is. If you find people wandering through the woods entertaining, you will most definitely love “Defiance.” Wonderful story, wonderful heroism, and an incredible feat, but Zwick certainly didn’t do them justice. Perhaps they should’ve left this story for a documentary on the History Channel, it probably would have been more entertaining.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Ethan Rodgers, age 20 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie is a great historical movie. It gives you the real feeling of how many people felt. History along with action, drama, and adventure are all well fused together. Daniel Craig did a great job in this movie. I have to warn you this movie is rated R for a reason. There is a lot of language and blood in this movie. Children that are easily disturbed by violence should not see this movie. If you want to see a good action movie you should see this. The suspense is great and has you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Overall it is a great movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Josh B, age 12 (USA)