Time/Place: 10:30 showing at Irvine Spectrum
The first thing that struck me about this movie was its title. Defiance is a strong word in itself, and then on top of that I was really amazed by the trailer. The idea was great and fresh, and I’d lie to say I didn’t have high expectations for it. I had plans to see this movie the weekend it opened, but life got in the way for a little while. It’s taken me a long time to see this movie, but today I finally did. It was not exactly what I was expecting it to be; in some ways it was more.
Defiance is the story of a group of Jews who end up evading the Holocaust of WWII by living out in the forest. It was a grand movie. I don’t know the historical inaccuracies, though it was based on a book by a historian – so one would HOPE it’s close to the actual events. This isn’t a documentary, however… it’s a movie, and as a movie I thought it was decent. The movie has an interesting range, overall, though. Parts of the movie impressed me with action, while others were very slow and calm. Firstly, the trailer led me to assume that the whole of the Jewish group of refugees were fighting back. To the contrary, however, the group is focused on survival. Liev Schreiber’s character is more interested in exacting revenge and making an aggressive stand, but the difference between his attitude and his brother’s, Daniel Craig as the leader of the group, is a core focus of the movie. This, I enjoyed. If I were in the mood to see a war movie filled with action (which I’m usually not), this would be the wrong movie to see. What I really enjoyed about this movie was its internal conflicts. Time and time again, the on-rush of the story’s events thrust decisions onto the characters that carry a heavy weight – and we experience that with them.
What I didn’t enjoy about the movie is something that I couldn’t quite place at first. I thought it was a great movie, I enjoyed it and will recommend it. Something, though, kept nagging at me. Yes, there were additional love interests, but for once it actually worked into the story well because it wasn’t just the main characters getting the cute girl to quickly replace loved ones… EVERYONE was getting together (WWII – the ultimate hook-up event, apparently). I’ve thought about the storyline, the performances, the structure… I really enjoyed everything. So, I’ve had to come to the conclusion that the fault was in me. Maybe I was tired, or perhaps this wasn’t what I was in the mood for. Even still, as I sat in the theater alone with the credits rolling, I was filled with great emotion. It took me some time to adjust to the fact that this movie wasn’t the one I had expected, but there were a number of moments near the end that got to me. One, in particular, had me almost jump out of my seat and cheer. Was it a bit of a Hollywood moment? Probably. By that point, though, I had invested myself into these characters and had come on this journey with them – so I concurrently felt the same excitement they would have in that moment. As soon as I realized what was happening, in my head I had one of those "Yeah! Go get ’em!" type of adrenaline fueled reactions I used to have as a kid while watching the action movies that I now find cheesy.
That’s what it all ultimately comes down to, though. I liked these characters, and I enjoyed being apart of their lives for a little while – regardless of the situation. In fact, the situation is what made me want to watch. The story itself does meander at times, and there are most likely things that could have been trimmed out of the movie, but that is irrelevant when you care about who you’re watching. I love people, anyways, and survival stories such as this one are good – but what makes them great is the characters’ strength to not only survive, but to stand strong together as a group… to be defiant in the face of hopelessness.
Know what you’re getting into with Defiance, and I think you might enjoy it. Don’t expect a war movie, though there is a very good share of violence. Instead, expect a story of family, duty, and sacrifice. As I said in the beginning, defiance is a strong word – one that is only strengthened by a movie such as this.