Monday, February 1, 2010

“Defiance” – This one’s for my friend; I liked this movie.

A friend of mine at work recently told me that I hate all movies. Oddly, he doesn’t read my reviews, but he does ask what I think of different movies. His opinion is that I pick at the small things too much and don’t just enjoy the movies. While he is right about me picking at the small things (sometimes it’s really easy), he’s wrong about my enjoyment of movies. I love watching movies; if I hated them all, I’d simply stop watching them. I also explained to him that if a movie has a good plot and I come out liking the film, I will overlook the smaller things. I may still talk about them, but I won’t hold it against the film.

My friend also says that my expectations are too high going into movies. At first, I wanted to deny this. For example, I actually had very low expectations of “Transporter 3” (it still disappointed me), but then I thought about his statement a little more. Why shouldn’t I have expectations going into movies? For ten bucks a pop, it’s not unreasonable for me to ask for some quality in what I’m watching. It’s also not unreasonable for me to be upset when films ask me to believe things that make no sense. It’s insulting to me and proves how lazy directors, writers, and producers can be.

What does all this have to do with “Defiance?” Well, in honor of my friend, I thought I’d show him that there are movies out there that I don’t tear apart.

“Defiance” is a story about a group of Jewish Belorussians trying to survive during World War II. They are living in the forests and doing the best they can to hide from the Germans. The group is reluctantly led by two brothers, Tuvia and Zus Bielski, who are divided on how to take care of these people. They survive starvation, winters, German attacks, internal fighting, and disease to emerge as a symbol of human strength and perseverance. In other words, defiant.

Like past movies, I went into this one with high expectations. Unlike most of those movies, I was not disappointed. This movie was good for many of the reasons that those other ones were bad. One reason is the attention to detail. In one scene, Zus bangs his head against a tree after finding out his family was killed. As Tuvia is consoling him, a trickle of blood starts running down Zus’ face. In most movies, laziness or sloppiness would lead to a dried stream of blood, or no blood at all.

Another great aspect of this film was the acting. Daniel Craig (Tuvia) and Liev Schreiber (Zus) were fantastic. I expected this from Craig, but Schreiber completely surprised me. Every line and scene was delivered with the same high level of emotion and dedication. Not once did I ever look at either of them as simply actors during the film. Even more impressive, they never broke character with their accents. This couldn’t have been easy considering Craig is English and Schreiber is American. Whoever the casting director was should get a bonus.

The most important thing to take from this movie is the story. It’s important to remember this time in history so we don’t forget how truly evil humans can be and what some people do to survive that evil. Whenever I am in Washington D.C., I try to visit the Holocaust Museum. No matter how many times I go, the experience never diminishes. To me, this story became an extension of that experience when I learned that it was a true story. While this movie isn’t nearly as sobering as the museum, it provides a very poignant look at a small piece of that history.

Before I go, I have to mention that it’s no accident that this movie was released at the same time as “Valkyrie,” Tom Cruise’s Hitler assassination attempt film. While I haven’t seen “Valkyrie,” I guarantee that “Defiance” is the superior of the two films. For one thing, Tom Cruise is nowhere near as good an actor as Daniel Craig. More importantly, “Defiance” is a much deeper film, examining the human struggle. In contrast, “Valkyrie” looks like a typical action flick with a typical overacted job by Tom Cruise.

So, to put my friend’s concerns to rest, go see “Defiance.” It’s a great movie that didn’t neglect the little things. If nothing else, you’ll be reminded of what hell really looks like.

Rating: Worth every penny. I’d even pay for my friend’s ticket.

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