Partisan politics

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Edward Zwick's campaign to put a Hollywood spin on bloody episodes of world history (Glory, Blood Diamond) continues with Defiance, which recounts the true story of a family of Soviet Jews who started the largest group of Jewish partisans in World War II.

In 1941, after their parents are murdered by invading Nazis, eldest brother Tuvia (Daniel Craig), along with Zus (Liev Schreiber), Asael (Jamie Bell) and young Aron (George MacKay), flee to the forests of present-day Belarus. Much to Zus' dismay, with each trip Tuvia takes for supplies, he brings more refugees from the nearby Jewish ghetto, thus more mouths to feed.

As a working community forms, the tension of being hunted is heightened by hunger, disease and a fundamental disagreement between Zus and Tuvia that sends Zus running for a post in the Russian army.

While Zwick can make with the stirring battle scene, and Craig and Schreiber bring the right kind of masculinity to give his treatment a much-needed roughing up, this is still too slick and pat. Not even the philosophical arguments run especially deep.

Along with co-writer Clayton Frohman, Zwick touches on the anti-Semitism Zus endures under the Russian army and a unique form of sexual slavery established in the partisans' early days, but places the emphasis on heroism. While that's great for individual legacies, it forgets that human error can be more interesting, and educational.


Opens Friday

Grade: B-