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Thursday, October 22, 2009

DEFIANCE (2008)

In WWII Poland, four brothers run off to join the resistance, but find a greater purpose establishing a forest sanctuary for more than a thousand fellow-Jews fleeing Nazis & Polish collaborators. The basic story is true, and such a ‘natural’ it easily trumps Edward Zwick’s flat-footed megging. The sequences involving an uneasy alliance with the invading Soviet army are of particular interest. As a production job, the physical reconstruction and locations have been meticulously handled, yet the dialogue is strictly ‘B’ movie stuff and the doleful musical score has violin virtuoso Joshua Bell throbbing out endless variations of a faux ‘Kol Nidre’ composition. The acting goes from spirited to cornball with Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie (Billy Elliot) Bell, & George Mackay as exceptionally unlikely brothers. Zwick certainly knows a good story when he hears one, but as director he remains the dutiful film school lad. Character arcs, internal & external conflict, repetitive comic motifs, quick situational reversals, story ‘beats’ at all the right places; leave no narrative trope behind is his motto, his religion, and his Achilles heel. For a story that’s all about surviving on your wits by improvising, Zwick sticks to old habits like a tattered security blanket. He wouldn’t have lasted a day out there.

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