Even James Bond can't save tale of Jewish freedom fighters

PUBLISHED: 10:27 12 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:47 07 September 2010

Defiance (15) Director Ed Zwick Starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Allan Corduner and Alexa Davalos 137 minutes One star rating The new year is opening with an outbreak of somnambulist guerrilla warfare movies. Benicio Del Toro is already

Defiance (15)

Director Ed Zwick

Starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Allan Corduner and Alexa Davalos

137 minutes

One star rating

The new year is opening with an outbreak of somnambulist guerrilla warfare movies.

Benicio Del Toro is already stumbling and mumbling around cinemas in Che: Random Scenes From A Revolution.

And now we get this dull camping trip tale of Jewish resistance fighters in Belarus during the Second World War.

Two and a bit hours is hardly an epic running length but, the way this thing drags along, it felt like Australia and a day.

After their families are killed in the massacres of Jews in 1941, the three Bielski brothers take to the woods and find themselves heading a community as other survivors seek them out.

Life is a constant struggle to find enough food and trying to avoid German patrols.

Tuvia Bielski (Craig) emerges as the leader but has to deal with his less compassionate brother Zus (Schreiber) and strike a balance between the ruthlessness needed to survive and retaining a basic humanity.

It's an extraordinary and remarkable true story. But even extraordinary and remarkable true stories needs a little more than blank exposition dialogue and prestigious actors doing slipping Eastern European accents to make them compelling.

This just plods along, unrelenting, unvarying, every scene the same as the last.

If you'd never seen Craig before you'd never believe he was anything special.

At one point, they decide to liberate Jews from a nearby ghetto.

The remarkable feat of freeing seemingly hundreds of people from Nazi control ought to be a gripping sequence but the whole thing only lasts about three minutes and half of that is taken up with a discussion of the pros and cons of escaping

Otherwise, it's just a matter of two of them hopping over the wall and then everybody filing out through a big hole in the wall; Nazis, none the wiser.

Ed Zwick is a director who specialises in serious minded war/ adventure movies (Blood Diamond, Glory, Last Samurai), a storyteller who doesn't quite trust us to grasp the important issues he's dealing with so he takes it slowly and clearly so we won't be left behind.

The Bielskis' story seems to be the equal of that of Schindler but, while he got to be immortalised by Thomas Keneally and Spielberg, they got Zwick and a return to obscurity.


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