Defiance (2008)

Rated: R for violence and language
Length: 137 minutes
Grade: BDBB=B
Budget: $32 million
Box Office: $56 million (28 U.S., 18 Intl., 14 DVD)

Written by: Clayton Frohman and Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai and The Siege), based on the book by Nechama Tec.
Directed by: Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai, The Siege, Courage Under Fire, Legends of the Fall, Glory, and About Last Night)
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, and Alexa Davalos.

When the Germans invade Belarussia and are killing Jews in late World War II, one family of brothers wind up protecting a growing group of refugees in a forest they know from their pre-war bootlegging operation.

Entertainment Value: B
It’s good. And I always enjoy seeing a story of courage which I was previously unaware of. On the other hand, several people had set me up to expect this movie to be great, and I didn’t think it was outstanding. Don’t get me wrong, it was good. But good isn’t great. Mostly it was long.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol B , Sex/Nudity B, Violence D, Language D, Illegality C
This is a war movie and it has its share of violence and language (often in subtitles). There is one scene of a man and a woman in bed, and several minor references to sexual activity. Drinking is fairly constant.

Significant Content: B
Heroes are people who do what is right when it must be done, regardless of whether they want to or of whether they were considered good people before. The meaningfulness of life is not defined by your circumstances, but by how you behave within them. Community and even happiness can be created in almost any situation. Family is very important. Revenge may satisfy for a moment, but it mostly corrupts us toward further violence.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
Being a historical movie, the real purpose I believe is just to tell us a very interesting story. However, whether intentional or not, there is a very interesting metaphysical question which I think this movie raises. The group of refugees is living in the forest and making do in whatever ways they can, but the way they live under those conditions winds up seeming very much like life under any other. This sort of begs the question, to what degree were their dangers and inconveniences really meaningful, and how different was their little forest society any different from any other?

Discussion Questions:
~How did the scene of retribution at the house make you feel?
~What about the scene with the captured German guard?
~If someone asked you where God was in all of this misery, what would you say?
~Jews are often portrayed in World War II movies as helpless victims. What image of them is portrayed here? How is it significant that people who were previously only marginally within the Jewish community were the ones who became the leaders?
~What principles of decency and justice were established within the camp?
~What comparisons can you make between the Bielski brothers and Robin Hood? Was it morally acceptable for them to rob to get what they needed? What about the command “Thou shalt not steal?”
~Given that most of the story happens within the camp itself, who is the antagonist in this movie? Who is the protagonist? What is the most pressing danger other than the Germans and the Russians?
~Is there a difference between preferring non-violent means and requiring non-violent means of survival? Under what circumstances is violence legitimate?
~Would you describe this community as a nation?
Overall Grade: B
Good, interesting, well-acted. It’s worth watching.

No comments: