Clearly relishing the opportunity to do more than smirk and shoot people, Daniel Craig frowns and shoots people as older brother Tuvia, who attempts to hold the community together while sibling Zus (Liev Schreiber) heads off to join the partisans. It’s an extraordinary tale, fully deserving of the hefty Hollywood treatment. The Bielskis sheltered anyone and everyone, even going so far as to liberate a nearby ghetto.
Which only makes Zwick’s predictable treatment of the material more frustrating. His films have always been trad Hollywood, with more old-school style than actual substance. ‘Defiance’ doesn’t even have style, hemmed in by its forest setting and photographed with an unremittingly bland colour palette. The action sequences are perfunctory and confusing, full of smoke and fury, acting to force the story forward rather than set the pulse racing. The film ties itself in knots trying to be both historical account and ripping adventure – ‘Schindler’s List’ by way of ‘The Dirty Dozen’. In the end neither aspect satisfies, resulting in a drab if diverting Sunday afternoon spectacle.