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If only we'd had Bond...

(originally posted in slightly different form by Jamie Kelwick at his own site -- www.the-usher.com.)

Director Edward Zwick is no stranger to telling stories from history. Critical, commercial and award winning hits like 'The Last Samurai' and 'Glory' show that he is a director who can give the right amount of credence to powerful subjects. He can also raise awareness of real world situations, as in 'Blood Diamond', and mix history with drama in 'The Siege' and 'Courage Under Fire' and 'Legends of the Fall' but for this story he highlights real bravery against an unrelenting force.

Set in 1941 Belarus, the story of the Bielski brothers is probably one that very few people know about but it is a story that needs to be told. When the local Belarus police under the instruction of the German SS kill their parents, the four Bielski brothers head for the Belarussian forest to evade capture.

Many other Jewish families also saw the woods as a possible hiding place so they are not sent to the ghettos, camps or just murdered by the invading Nazis and the elder Bielski's Tuvia and Zus take these people into their care. As word spreads of a Jewish safe haven in the forest, more and more people head to the camp but with this comes the problem of feeding, providing shelter and raised attention from the pursuing Nazi forces. The fact that they always had these problems and threats made this story of survival one that is filled with emotion, conflict and the triumph of the human spirit.

Casting the three older brothers was always going to be paramount to the film's success and Edward Zwick has managed to draw in some real talent, even though they don't look like they could be related. Daniel Craig continues to choose interesting projects when he is not the world's most famous secret agent and as Tuvia Bielski he has been given a character that has been thrown into a command and responsibility situation and it is one that he really has to step into. For the most part he does, excelling in the action and confrontation scenes but when it comes to normal interactions, he struggles a little.

Liev Schreiber plays Zus, the other older brother who really needs revenge for the death of his family and joining the Russian partisan fighters is his way of finding vengeance. This is a good role for the actor and one that shows he can do action sequences as well as anyone.

Jamie Bell plays the younger brother Asael, who has to grow up extremely fast and deal with the situation, as well as the possibility of finding love. The final brother, Aron, is played by young actor George MacKay, who doesn't really have a lot to do in the film.

The problem is that none of these actors look like they could be related but they do act well together. The supporting cast is also good with Tomas Arana, Alexa Davalos and Mark Feuerstein standing out.

While you can argue that character development was needed to make you emotionally attach to the people involved, their situation already achieves this, meaning that Edward Zwick and his creative team could have shaved a few minutes off the 137 minute running time. This aside, 'Defiance' is still a fascinating movie to watch and is a story of bravery and courage that needed to be told.

Jamie Kelwick

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