Defiance is as much about revenge as it is defying the Nazi movement. Under strenuous conditions, Jews gather in a forest seeking escape from the slaughter of their families during World War II. They live there four years, constantly on the move to evade capture or worse.
It is at times hard to watch, but entirely true story of 1,200 eventual survivors who found a way to escape persecution. Daniel Craig stars as Tuvia Bielski, his family murdered by Nazi SS troops, and leading the group of Jews to what hopefully becomes safety.
Like many characters in the film, Tuvia wants revenge against the man responsible. Liev Schreiber plays his brother, Zus, likewise out for blood as he storms the town looking for anyone involved with the German war machine.
The film’s most violent moment comes as the camp imprisons a German officer, only to savagely beat him with their rifles as they scream about their dead family members. Tuvia shows apprehension, but lets it happen anyway. Tuvia doesn’t want it to happen, and on the other hand, doesn’t care if it does. Like the others in the makeshift camp, he is tired of dealing with the Germans, and it seems as if he finds relief in the death of the unlucky officer.
It is a powerful scene, even more so than others showing the growing lines of hungry mouths and limited food. It is their only escape, their only possible way to vent anger for what has happened to them.
As a film, Defiance may run longer than it should, although it is hard to say one scene of suffering is less important the other. Action is sporadic although intense, including an incredibly fast paced finale that does come off overly dramatic in a Hollywood sort of way. It’s one of those rescues that only comes at the hands of a scriptwriter.
Still, Defiance is well produced, looks great, but more importantly, tells the story of a group of people with an incredible will to live. That is powerful material, a story worth being told and more importantly, worth seeing.
One thing needs to be addressed when discussing this AVC encode: the contrast. Much of the film blows it out, whether in backgrounds or on the actors faces. This is obviously deliberate considering how and when it is used. It is not a flaw of the transfer, but intentional.
That out of the way, the enormous amount of detail contained on this disc is stunning. Facial texture is unbelievable. Clothes and hair are meticulous. Look at the weathering on Craig’s leather jacket. It is maintained flawlessly. Long shots of the forest show no signs of artifacting or shimmering.
Black levels are outstanding, and each frame is another benchmark in depth and dimensionality. Shadow delineation is spectacular. Color is superb and saturated, even when drenched in blue hues to set mood. Flesh tones are spot on. There are no signs of artificial enhancement, and the light film grain adds wonderful texture.
Some may be surprised to hear the lack of surround audio during the fire fights, but it is important to note that looking at what is on screen, it makes sense. The surrounds are active, including some wonderful immersion during a rainstorm, crowded panic filling the sound field, and dirt falling around characters as bombs fall.
Bullets mostly stay in the front three channels because that’s where they’re being fired. The audio tracks the action well without adding unnecessary audio to the rear speakers. Bass packs quite a punch, particularly during the finale when it has a chance to show itself. Dialogue is wonderfully mixed in comparison to the action.
Extras are sadly brief. A solo commentary by director Edward Zwick follows into a rather standard making of, Return to the Forest. It runs 26 minutes. A second featurette focuses on the family members of those who took part in the film’s depicted events, telling stories of their childhood in regards to their parents or grandparents.
Scoring Defiance is a look at the composing process, notable since James Newton Howard was nominated for an Oscar for his work. Bieleski Partisan Survivors is a photo montage of people still living who were there during the four year escape. While touching, interviews would have been appreciated. Two trailers finish things off.