Saturday, January 31, 2009


Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell,
Alexa Davalos, Allan Corduner, Mark Feuerstein

Bielski partisans

This film is the true story about the Bielski brothers. It was adapted into the screen based on a book by Nechtama Tec, "Defiance: The Bielski Partisans". They were Polish Jews who escaped from the ghetto and sought refuge in the dense Belarussian forest from the Germans. It soon developed into a community of about 1,200 Jews who lived under harsh conditions under the protective eyes of the Bielski partisans. This tale of personal triumphs amidst harsh times is directed by Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond).

The main focus are the Bielski brothers who are all multi-dimensional characters in their own right. Led by Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig), a former member of the fierce Polish army, he is a calm and collected guy with leadership qualities. As opposed to Zus Bielski (Liev Schreiber), a hot tempered personality with war freak qualities. He even joins the Red Army (Russian forces) which fights the German occupation of Poland. The 3rd brother, Asael (Jamie Bell) is still a young lad who eventually grows to become a brave man, adept at both combat and intuitive skills. Their youngest Aron (George MacKay) witnessed the traumatic execution of their parents and has withdrawn into a muted state of mind.

The film presents the interpersonal relationships between the 'camp' members. Their individualistic tendencies often leads to a divisive community. There are certain boring moments when they depict scenes of life in the community. As well as too "hollywood" type angles like a forced love scene and Tuvia rallying his fellow Jews not to lose hope giving an inspirational speech while riding a horse. Or scenes which make your eyes roll up with disbelief. But they are well balanced with tense, suspenseful shots of explosive skirmishes between the refugees and the German forces. Interspersed with fight scenes of the Red Army battling the Nazis.

The cast led by Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jaime Bell as the Bielski brothers deliver powerful performances. Even though their Polish accent tend to surface intermittently. They are ably supported by unknown actors among them real descendants of those who actually lived in that forest for 2 years. Dialogue is mostly in English with certain scenes in the Russian and German dialect with helpful English subtitles.

But more than anything else, this narrative of a historical event - the survival of almost 1,200 Jews for almost 2 years in the harsh Belorussian forests - (no matter how inaccurate since it was injected a Hollywood twist) deals with hope and personal triumphs. The natural survival instinct of mankind during a terrible crisis, it is beset with inspirational tones and a "never say die" attitude in the face of a powerful enemy.

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