Defiance (2008) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Drama / War
Paramount Vantage || R - 137 minutes - $39.99 || June 2, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-06-08


Buy this DVD from Amazon.com!
.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Edward Zwick
Writer(s): Nechama Tec (novel); Clayton Frohman & Edward Zwick (screenplay)
Cast: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell


Theatrical Release Date: January 16, 2009


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • 4 Featurettes
  • 2 Theatrical Trailers


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.78)
  • English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish

Comment on this and other movies on the message board!


.::THE FILM::.

While Hollywood certainly exhausts certain genres to the brink of annoyance, I personally cannot get enough World War II dramas there’s always some new and interesting story that can be told and when done well, the time investment is always worth it. Of course, there is one caveat: you mustn’t compare them to two of the best WWII movies made and arguably two of the best movies made period with Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, tell yourself that and you’ll probably appreciate the rest much more.

In the latest WWII drama, Defiance, Daniel Craig stars as Tuvia Bielski who has fled from German occupied Belorussia with his brothers Zus (Liev Schreiber), Asael (Jamie Bell) and Aron (George MacKay). They find refuge deep in the woods where other Jews have gathered to escape from the Nazis. Soon enough Tuvia takes it upon himself to help hundreds of Jewish refugees start a colony where they must scavenge for weapons and food while still on the lookout for German soldiers.

The Bielski Brothers have different viewpoints on how to handle situations with the older two butting heads; Zus joins a Russian force in the region to stave off the Germans. Meanwhile, in the camp where food can be scarce and tempers rise, Tuvia tries to keep the peace but soon finds things spiraling out of control with power struggles and contagious fevers running through the camp.

Like most “based on a true story” movies, one has to realize it is not going to be a perfect recount of events and this is true with Defiance which has been said takes plenty of liberties for the sake of telling an exciting story. But while some may take offense to this, I don’t. Although I would hardly display this as some great historical record or anything, it is still an engrossing film with some solid performances, although it could’ve gone without the somewhat sketchy accents. This is probably where another 2008 WWII movie surpasses with Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie. Bryan Singer and company knew what they were doing and what they were trying to accomplish so rather than having Cruise with a phony German accent, they kept his regular voice and let the story take over. I think this could’ve been done here as well, but I did like the coming and going of the native language so it wasn’t too distracting.

Daniel Craig proves that he’s more than James Bond and shows decent range with his character even if his “pissed off” facial expressions were used plenty in Casino Royale. However, Craig gives a good performance alongside Liev Schreiber who has grown from his breakthrough in Scream 2 along with a couple memorable performances in The Sum of All Fears (the only reason I wished they continued with that franchise reboot) and The Manchurian Candidate.

Defiance was directed by Edward Zwick, the man behind the fantastic but underrated Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise as well as Glory and Blood Diamonds. Zwick has the knack for telling a good dramatic story and while it never has the epic feel as some WWII movies, he does unfold the story in compelling fashion.

And that’s how I would describe this movie: compelling. No, it does not rank that high amongst other WWII dramas but it does tell a story not many outside of WWII buffs know about but one that more should learn. The impact the Bielski Brothers had is pretty incredible even if the movie pumps it up more than what really happened.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Commentary by Director Edward Zwick – The co-writer/producer/director of Defiance gives some insight into the making of the movie from filming locations, casting the parts and getting the accents.

Defiance: Return to the Forest (26:05; HD) – This is a nice behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with the usual intercutting of clips and all that. It’s not a great featurette but fairly concise with good sound bites from members of the cast and crew.

Children of the Otriad (13:42; HD) – Family members speak about their relatives and the contribution they had. The sons, daughters, grandchildren, nephews and nieces of the various members of the Bielski family talk about what made the group so special. The featurette also includes home video footage and pictures.

Scoring Defiance (7:00; HD) – James Newton Howard, Edward Zwick and violinist Joshua Bell (The Red Violin) talk about the music for the movie and how the score came about, trying to distinguish it on its own.

Bielski Partisan Survivors (1:58; HD) – These are some photos of the survivors taken by Edward Zwick.

Finally there are 2 theatrical trailers.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Outside of some noticeable noise during certain scenes, this 1080p high-def transfer (50GB BD disc) with a 1.78 aspect ratio (was 1.85 in theaters) looks very good on the home theater screen. It’s not a really ‘wow’ looking movies as Zwick seems to wash out some of the colors but still details are pretty good and I noticed any imperfections (scratches, dust marks, etc). This isn’t going to be the best video transfer of 2009, but good enough even by comparison to some of the best.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track actually is quite strong during the occasional explosions from aerial bombs, tank firing or gun shots and the dialogue levels were distinct and understandable throughout, even with some of the more questionable accents.



.::OVERALL::.

As I said, there cannot be too many movies made about events surrounding World War II and while Defiance may not have the epic feel especially compared to other Edward Zwick films (Glory, The Last Samurai), it is still a powerful film that anyone interested during this time period should see.