The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Paramount - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 136 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, alexa Davalos, Allan Corduner, Mark Feurstein
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Music by: James Newton Howard
Written by: Edward Zwick & Clayton Frohman
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 2, 2009
"Our revenge is to stay alive"
Daniel Craig stars as Tuvia Bielski, an ordinary citizen turned hero, in this action-packed epic of family, honor, vengeance and salvation. Defiance is a riveting adventure that showcases the extraordinary true story of the Bielski brothers, simple farmers –outnumbered and outgunned- who turned a group of war refugees into powerful freedom fighters. Tuvia, along with his unyielding brother, Zus (Liev Schreiber), motivate hundreds of civilians to join their ranks against the Nazi regime.
Defiance is set in the eastern regions of German Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. It is the film adaptation of Nechama Tec's Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, which is based on the story of the four Bielski brothers. The book tells how Polish Jews came together for common protection and to oppose the German occupation of their homeland. After the murder of their parents by local police following Nazi orders, Zus, Asael, and Aron Bielski leave the family farm and head into the forest. They are joined shortly by their eldest brother Tuvia. Tuvia and Zus vow to avenge their parents by killing those responsible. The Bielskis are intimately familiar with the forests surrounding their home and decide that staying there will provide them with both shelter and an advantage over the invading German army. They come across small pockets of refugees who have fled and are hiding in the forest. They decide to take them under their protection with Tuvia assuming the role of leader.
After acquiring weapons they begin to raid some of the locals who collaborate with the Germans. Word of them begins to spread and more refugees seek them out looking for protection/shelter. As the number of refugees grows food/supplies become short. Tuvia and Lus have a disagreement over how things are being run within the encampment. Lus is hot tempered and aggressive and desires to fight rather than hide out. Tuvia understand the risks of a direct assault on the German soldiers with a largely unarmed and untrained group of people. Lus leaves the encampment and joins a group of Russian partisans that actively engage in the fight against the Nazis. Tuvia and Asael decide that if they are to survive that everyone will have to work and fight. The women are taught how to shoot and gather food. Structure is created within the encampment with Tuvia establishing guidelines for all to follow. Winter comes and along with it starvation, sickness and frequently uprooting to avoid discovery. Dissention among some of the refugees leads to complications as Tuvia discovers that leading a group of people under such dire circumstances requires making life/death decisions. He comes to the realization that while Lus’s impetuous behavior wasn’t always required there are times where it is necessary. Meanwhile Lus gets his wish as he combats the Germans alongside the Russian partisans. Unfortunately he finds that even fighting side by side that anti-semitism prevails among the Russians. As time presses on the Germans actively seek out the refugees and begin to close in. Both men have discovered that even though things look grim that it’s possible to find love. This fuels their desire for life but that may not be enough as the Nazi noose begins to tighten.
What a remarkable story of courage, survival and the indomitable human spirit. I don’t know how many films/stories I have seen or heard that cover this subject but it never ceases to amaze me how resilient the people were who went through these horrific experiences. I had never heard this one and I am glad that the book was made into this film. This is a success story that should be told. A group of people that did what was necessary in order to survive. For them this meant resorting to things that made them come dangerously close to becoming that which they were struggling against. The important thing is that they never lost their humanity. Daniel Craig did a commendable job but I thought that Liev Schreiber gave a memorable performance. The supporting cast that makes up the central members of the refugees were superb. All had smaller roles but collectively played a pivotal part in portraying this strong group of survivors. The film clocks in at well over 2 hours which I thought might have been a tad too long as the second act moved a bit slowly. It picks up nicely in the third act and features a climactic and emotional ending. This is a film that is worth seeing.
The rating is for violence, thematic material and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Defiance comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 27 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.2 mbps.
This high definition presentation has a grainy and filmic quality that doesn’t lend itself to razor sharp clarity and three dimensional depth. Wide angle shots of the forest area offer clear definition with good depth and perceptible detail. Close-ups and mid level shots reveal better refinement with appreciable nuance and texture. Filtering and grain combine to give it a dated/period look with certain segments bathed in a bluish monochromatic tinge. Colors are limited to earth tones that aren’t overly vivid but do appear natural and well delineated. Blacks are deep and rich, with excellent dynamic range that gives them notable visual depth. Contrast is strong without compromise to fidelity. Shadow delineation is equally impressive which provides discerning depth perception during the many scenes containing limited lighting. I didn’t detect any obvious signs of video related anomalies or artifacts.
The lossless soundtrack is presented in a front heavy mix that is highlighted by James Newton Howard’s superlative music score. The orchestrated brass, strings, and timpani are spread across the front of the room with subtle delicacy that blends perfectly with the variety of sounds/effects to create an aurally transparent, one dimensional presentation where the instruments are clearly definable within the acoustic environment. Excellent directional spacing and balance across the main channels enables smaller background sounds within the mix to be detectable. Dialogue is definitively authoritative with excellent clarity and room penetration through the center channel. The soundstage opens up during a bombing raid in chapter 16 and later in the final assault. Envelopment is good as explosions, tank fire and flying bullets fill the soundfield. Low frequency detail has good tactility and impact during these segments, but isn’t frequently used over the course of the film. This movie features war time elements but in reality that plays a backseat during the story. When things pick up dynamic range and special effects are presented quite well. Overall I thought this was an appropriate surround mix that hit the high points quite well.
- Commentary with Director Edward Zwick
- (HD) Defiance: Return to the forest – 26 minute featurette
- (HD) Children of the Otriad – 13 minute documentary hosted by the children/descendants of the Bielskis
- (HD) Scoring Defiance – 7 minute featurette
- (HD) Bielski partisan survivors – A photo montage taken on November 20, 2008 by Edward Zwick
- (HD) Theatrical trailers – 1 and 2
Defiance is the true story of the Bielski partisans who survived annihilation by the Nazis for nearly three years by living in the forest. It is an engrossing story of courage, survival and the steadfast power of the human spirit against insurmountable odds. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring solid high definition audio/video quality and pertinent bonus features that are not only offered in high definition but are well worth watching. This one probably won’t hold up well under repeat viewings but comes highly recommended as a rental.
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