Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Defiance: A Review



I finally saw "Defiance" last night. Really good. I hated that scene where the mob uses their rifles to bash in the German's head. I wanted to scream out, "No! No! You are the good guys! You are above vengeance!" But that's the point, isn't it? Good job, Edward Zwick.

Liev Schreiber's character Zus kicks ass in a Han Soloesque, oblivious-to-what-others-think way. It figures I'd link the two. I wanted Han Solo to be my boyfriend when I was in third grade. When I was in my twenties, I wanted Liev Schreiber's character Andrew to be my boyfriend when I saw him in "Walking and Talking," the movie I love but everyone I recommend it to seems to think is just awful. My brother used to tease me when our mom would tell me I should write movie reviews for a living that whenever I'd rave about a movie most sane people would understand that to mean they should absolutely avoid seeing the film.

It looks like my brother was right. While making sure I had the proper spelling of Schreiber's name, I checked the Wikipedia post about the film and discovered many critcs disagree with my opinion of it. Rotton tomatoes gives it only a 57%. Really?

Were those critics all in the bathroom during that scene where Zus waltzes onto the field, climbs aboard the German tank and, despite a huge rivalry between brothers that had previously caused him to abandon his family and their fellow refugees, saves them from slaughter? Did they blink during that scene where his brother Tuvia executes the family of the police officer who murdered their parents, but soon realizes revenge is not as sweet as surviving with your decent human values intact? Did they get up for popcorn during that scene where Lilka, Tuvia's love interest, appeals to his human emotions to spare the rape victim and her child from camp banishment after he discovers the hidden child despite having firmly stated that pregnancies were absolutely forbidden in the camp, even though it was completely impractical to think they could care for an infant when they could barely keep from starving and freezing themselves?

I understand after reading director Zwick's response to critcism of his film why I like it so much, "Defiance is not a simple fight between good and evil. The Bielskis weren't saints. They were flawed heroes, which is what makes them so real and so fascinating. They faced any number of difficult moral dilemmas that the movie seeks to dramatise: Does one have to become a monster to fight monsters? Does one have to sacrifice his humanity to save humanity?"

Ambiguity at its finest. Just like another war film that hasn't gotten the props it deserves.