Cover Art and Menus: 5/10
The cover doesn’t do anything to draw me into this movie, other than show me Daniel Craig in a leather jacket. If that floats your boat, fair enough. The menu is functional navigation with a still photo in the background, which is fine with me. It’s easy to get to the extras and nothing about the story is spoiled by video clips blasting away while I find what I want on the disc.
- Commentary By Director Edward Zwick – I like Edward Zwick. He seems to have a lot of heart and soul invested in what he’s doing. He’s interesting to listen to even if he’s a bit on the pretentious Hollywood side of things sometimes. I guess that’s what happens when you make movies with big budgets for many years.
- Defiance: Return To The Forest – This is a making of type packaged bit with interviews with the director, cast, writer, and producer. It’s really pretty good when you know nothing about the story, like me. They reveal a lot about how the movie was made on location, in cold weather, about how seriously people took the responsibility of telling the tale of these real people of the not so distant past.
- Children Of The Otriad: The Families Speak – This is the kind of extra I want to see when the film is based on true events. This is a series of interviews with the children and granddaughter of the real men who helped so many people survive in the woods of Belorussia during Hitler’s occupation in 1941-42. It’s humbling to see people talk about their parents and grand parents and their place in the history of not only their family but the war and their home country.
- Scoring Defiance – The music as it is applied to the story, the characters, the setting, and every other emotional aspect of the film. The haunting violin played by one of the most talented players in the world is delicately molded to fit just right.
- Bielski Partisan Survivors – This is a series of photos taken by the director of the surviving folks who lived through the winters of 41-42 in the forest to escape Nazis.
- And More! – um, trailers.
The Movie: 7/10
Bad news first, this movie is far from perfect. There are dialect issues, accents go astray, and sometimes it feels like a modern attempt at melodrama. Ok, that being said, the story and characters more than make up for the cracks of imperfection.
The story of four brothers in Belorussia in 1941 who escape the Nazis by living in the woods find themselves responsible for a large group of fellow Jewish escapees. The group grows to over a thousand and in the process there are battles, romances, jerks, a bleak cold winter, and the ever pressing threat of being found by the German soldiers and then certain death.
This is based on real events. The children and grandchildren of these people survive today to tell the stories of those years in the forest. The Belski brothers weren’t ready to save so many people, but circumstance and fate lead their way. They built a community that included buildings, a food gathering system, intellectuals, a fighting faction,and even the ocassional romance forged from their harsh reality.
The movie doesn’t just tell the day to day survival tale. It goes deeper to touch on the issues such as class. Some of the escaping Jews were prominent, wealthy, and the Belski brothers were farm boys, not part of their social ladder.
The most prominent question the movie asks, which is certainly only applied by writers and producers, not inherant to the real events, is what is defiance? Is fighting back with guns and violence against oppression the just way to push ahead? Or is living your life day to day without letting the offenses of an oppressor take away your humanity?
In the forest there is a wedding, a birth, people learning from each other, food being prepared, people building relationships, and more. This side of things is under the leadership of one Belski brother, while another brother chooses to go fight with the resistance, fighting fire with fire. Who’s right? Is anybody right?
While the faults of the film are hard to ignore, there is something life changing about the story it tells. Life changing because I have never heard this story before and it changes my perspective on WWII enough to make a difference in how I think back on history, and while it highlights just how horrific Hitler and his regime was, it also it makes me realize that there are good reasons to feel compassion in this world, and that’s saying A LOT!
Audio & Video: 8/10
Defiance is another movie that uses post processing to give it a cold bleak look. Some movies use this effect when they do not need to but I thought it worked quite well here. The film takes place in a forest so most of the palette is green and brown, but midway through the movie snow falls and we are treated to a stunning detailed looking image that really is quite three dimensional. The whole image is topped off with a fine film grain which really adds to the cinematic look. (opinions are varied on film grain in home video format’s, I fall on the side of leave it alone I want my movie to look film like) Defiance is presented in 1080P and is framed at 1.78:1 which means it fills the entire frame of your 16:9 display.
Audio is presented using Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and while quite stunning to listen to I couldn’t help but feel something was missing. We watched Valkyrie the other week and the opening scene as Tom Cruise was attacked in the dessert was so amazing I went back and listened to it again. Defiance, while doing nothing wrong in the sound department, seems to lack a certain punch in the low end. There are quite a lot of battle scenes here which do use the entire sound stage to impressive effect, but the explosions and gunshots sound a little lacking. There is one impressive sounding scene though where an explosion lands close to Daniel Craig s head and the sound stage emulates concussive shock,. It’s really impressive with a muted muffled ringing sound that makes you feel as if you were hit.
Overall I really enjoyed the movie and the Blu-Ray presentation is way above average. This is a movie you should check out if you even have a brief interest in World War 2.
The delicate balance between liking a movie and thinking it’s worth the money for the Blu-Ray is tough to keep in check. I did thoroughly enjoy the movie, not because it’s perfect, but the story got my attention. I wouldn’t watch it again, unless showing it to someone like my mother, so the rewatchability isn’t there. I recommend a rental on a thoughtful weekend afternoon when you want to dig a little deeper into your history and movie watching soul:)
Overall Score 7/10