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Four Jewish brothers living in Nazi occupied Poland escape into the forest where they join up with Russian resistance fighters in battling the Nazis. Throughout the war they built a village inside the forest and saved the lives of more than 1200 other Jews. Based on a true story.
For more about Defiance and the Defiance Blu-ray release, see Defiance Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 21, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Edward Zwick
Writers: Clayton Frohman, Edward Zwick, Nechama Tec
Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos, Allan Corduner, Mark Feuerstein
» See full cast & crew
Defiance Blu-ray Review
Paramount delivers another first-class Blu-ray experience with 'Defiance.'
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 21, 2009
Our revenge is to live.
For all of the many good directors out there who deliver quality picture after quality picture, a few will inevitably become lost in the shuffle when it comes time to make a list of the best of the best. One such Director is Edward Zwick, whose credits include a long list of films that excel across the board. His pictures consistently deliver tightly-woven stories of some import, fine acting, well-staged action, and thought-provoking drama. Glory, Blood Diamond, and Legends of the Fall represent three of the director's best films, each one a beautifully-photographed and emotionally satisfying work of art that stimulates the visceral senses while engaging and embracing deeper psychological undertones. His latest effort, the 2008 World War II film Defiance, represents another solid outing by the director, the movie playing as classic Zwick with its breathtaking locales and photography, strong acting, moving story, and healthy doses of action. Though perhaps not quite as engaging as Glory or as meaningful as Blood Diamond, Defiance offers up an even-keel experience that both emotionally invests the audience in its characters and their plight while also entertaining on a more fundamental level.
With Fascism on the march throughout Europe during World War II, Operation Barbarossa underway, and the elimination of the Jewish people at the forefront of Hitler's vision for a post-war and Nazi-led world, those Jewish peoples not yet imprisoned by the fall of 1941 found themselves in hiding from strong and determined German forces. Defiance tells the story of the Bielski partisans, Polish Jews who built for themselves a life deep in the dense forests of Eastern Europe while evading their would-be captors and murderers. Their parents slaughtered by Nazi forces, the surviving Bielski brothers -- Tuvia (Daniel Craig, Quantum of Solace), Zus (Liev Schreiber, The Manchurian Candidate), Asael (Jamie Bell, Jumper), and Aron (George MacKay) -- flee to the Lipiczanska Forest in August 1941. As time passes, the group adds to its numbers both people and weapons, building a community of survivors that have in common the shared goal of elusion, survival, and defiance of their would-be killers.
Defiance plays at a "slow" pace, though that does not mean it plays at a "sluggish" pace. Instead, Defiance makes for a thought-provoking, deliberate experience where the emotional core of the story is allowed to at times idle, in a way drawing the audience into the plight of the characters as they struggle to survive against the German forces, the environment, and in some cases, one another. In a timeframe of just over two hours, the film allows the audience to experience the full spectrum of life in the Bielski camp, where staying alive and gathering necessities is not just a job but instead a way of life. The character that exemplifies the situation is a self-proclaimed "intellectual," Isaac Malbin (Mark Feuerstein), a former pamphlet-publisher who no longer reads and writes but instead works with his hands to build the camp and, by extension, a future for himself and his people. Feuerstein plays the role well, and indeed, the entire lead cast offers quality performances that span a broad array of emotional turmoil that lends further drama and realism to the picture. A film that is anything but glamorous, Defiance takes on a dreary, reflective, and melancholy tone that demonstrates the hardships, the dangers, and the prejudices faced by the Jews. The emotional over-and-undertones of the film come effortlessly together on-screen, the end result a satisfying emotional effort in classic Zwick fashion. Though the film may not be grounded in complete historical accuracy, it takes liberties only for slight dramatic license, although not at the expense of the essence of the story.
Not only emotionally satisfying, Defiance serves up a healthy dose of action that punctuates the film at several junctures, each sequence delivering good, but not groundbreaking, battle sequences. Sufficiently intense, appropriately dramatic, and well-photographed, the action falls in line with the rest of the film and never interrupts the emotional core but rather tends to enhance it. The film also enjoys an Oscar-nominated score courtesy of James Newton Howard (King Kong). Also of note is the film's wonderful photography; Cinematographer Eduardo Serra, who also worked with Zwick on Blood Diamond, captures many a wonderful backdrops and vistas, whether framing static shots or kinetic action sequences. Finally, Defiance enjoys fine editing courtesy of longtime Zwick accomplice Steven Rosenblum. Of particular note is a sequence that intercuts the festivities of a wedding with an ambush on a German convoy, the juxtaposition both startling and startlingly effective, the pacing of the edits just right to underscore the thematic intent and emotional underpinnings of the sequence.
Defiance Blu-ray, Video Quality
Paramount delivers Defiance to Blu-ray with a splendid 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. The film begins with a collection of darker sequences where steely, cold blues dominate the palette. Most colors, generally found in clothing, fade into the darkened appearance of the film, but are offset by a nice sprinkling of greens that mark the presence of foliage. Brighter daytime sequences sparkle, with colors standing out as natural and realistic, even if they do tend towards shades of blue and gray. Some interior scenes, those taking place at night, for instance, offer a warm, inviting presence, the yellow glow of a candle providing a pleasing atmosphere that might not reveal intricate levels of detail but showcases all that is asked of it, the Blu-ray disc handling the broad array of lighting conditions thrown its way expertly. Detail is generally stellar across the board, be it on clothing, faces, tree trunks, or the forest floor. Close-ups of Tuvia's and Zus' faces throughout the film, for instance, almost always reveal fine lines, bumps, and scruffy several-day-old beards that showcase plenty of texture and very fine and nuanced details. Defiance also offers up a discernible depth about the image that further reinforces the strong foreground and background details. Flesh tones and black levels also excel. Finally, a fine layer of grain swirls around the image, adding the finishing touches to what is a stellar cinematic-in-appearance presentation. Defiance may not feature an abundance of eye-catching color, but the transfer delivers a first-class presentation that, properly displayed, rivals top-notch theater presentations.
Defiance Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Defiance debuts on Blu-ray with a quality Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. This mix offers wonderful ambience throughout the film, of note most any scenes taking place in the forest where rustling leaves, chirping birds and insects, a subtle breeze, a flowing stream, or a drenching thunderstorm all deliver natural, immersive atmospheric effects that aren't terribly loud but certainly realistic in presence, virtually placing listeners in the midst of the natural locales. The action scenes also deliver. Though some single gunshots lack punch on the low end, the film's several running gun battles feature effects that spread evenly across the soundstage, with shots thumping out from every direction. They continue to lack slightly in volume at reference levels, particularly shots from the pistol-caliber submachine guns. The rifles offer a bit more of a sonic crack, but still lack that last bit of realistic punch. Several confrontations near the end of the film offer up suitable dynamics. An air raid that sees bombs dropped on the forest floor and a tank firing shells offer up decent levels of bass and spread out nicely, creating a discernible sense of both power and space. Both sequences serve up good directionality and make use of the entire soundstage. Defiance also delivers strong dialogue reproduction. While this track never falters, it never quite reaches into the stratosphere, either, the end result a very good but not quite reference-grade presentation.
Defiance Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Defiance doesn't evade the extras tab, delivering a suitable selection of bonus materials. First is a commentary track with Director Edward Zwick. Although Zwick sometimes delivers his comments as if he were reading them, he offers plenty of pertinent information on the film's origins, production, historical accuracy, shooting locations, staging the action sequences, and more, all coming together for a solid listen. Defiance: Return to the Forest (1080i, 26:05) plays out as a routine making-of feature that examines the history of the real-life people portrayed in the film, the background of the production, the plot, and themes of the film. Cast and crew share their thoughts on each subject, intercut with both footage from the film and from the set. Children of the Otriad (1080i, 13:42) is an emotional piece where the children of the Bielsky brothers recount the story that inspired the film. Scoring 'Defiance' (1080i, 7:00) takes a brief look at the assembly of the film's Oscar-nominated score. Bielski Partisan Survivors (1080i, 1:58) is a photomontage of real-life survivors. Concluding the supplements are a pair of theatrical trailers (1080p, 2:05 & 2:28).
Defiance Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Though not the best film in the Edward Zwick canon, Defiance delivers an experience reminiscent of the director's best efforts, this one perhaps not excelling in any one area but certainly not floundering in any, either. The film offers an important story told through pacing that allows the difficulties faced by the characters to become more palpable as the film moves on. Featuring strong acting, a solid emotional foundation, well-staged action sequences, an Oscar-nominated score, and fine photography and editing, Defiance sees everything come together nicely in a generally engaging film. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Defiance marks another fine effort from the studio. Though delivering only an average supplemental experience, the disc offers a strong lossless soundtrack and a stunning visual presentation. Recommended.
Defiance: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Defiance (3 bundles)
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