There have been many World War II films over the last several years. On top of that, if you’re a videogame player, the World War II era has been highly overused as well. I believe there are unending stories to be told from that war but at the same time filmmakers must find a unique way to engage viewers to sell them on a story that trailers can make seem way too familiar.
Its 1941 and the Nazis are pushing into the Soviet Union. In Belorussia, Jews are being picked up and deported or exterminated as the Nazis make their push. In an attempt to avoid the Nazis and simply survive, four brothers and a few others hide in the thick forests. Soon, dozens of others join the ragtag group and set up a small community. These people then must fight against overwhelming odds to survive.
The film does a great job of communicating the facts of what happened to these people while building strong drama and illustrating imperfections in the brothers that lead the colony. Director Edward Zwick co-wrote the screenplay and directed this film and still managed to stay away from heavy handed “message” type of delivery. The colony is caught between the encroaching Nazis, Russians traitors, and their own drama which threatens to implode the entire colony. In addition, the top notch cast delivers solid performances throughout the film.
So, Defiance has good bones, but unfortunately the film just isn’t consistent enough to make it as great as it should be. While the messages aren’t heavy handed, some of the dialogue is. Also, the film is cut in such a way that the pacing is off balance. The first act and the third act are both really strong but the middle act can be drudgery at times. Also, many of the characters get the shallowest of development. Zwick offers up just enough information to make you want to know more about a character and then that character’s development is done.
Defiance is so frustrating because just when it gets on the edge of greatness, it falls off in some way. So much of this film is great but the mistakes in editing and some of the dialogue keeps the film from hitting a stride that would give the story its due.
Overall this 1080p presentation looks really great. Detail levels are exceptional and black levels are deep but night scenes are usually still very clean. This film seems to strive for a level of realism throughout so I have to ask why the film features this slight blue hue. The blue makes the film feel a bit too much like a music video at times. That’s really the only complaint though. The contrast is really strong and other colors in the film are realistic and grain when it appears always seems purposeful.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track offers some nice dynamic range with surprisingly solid use of the subwoofer. While sound effects are crisp and clean, they are unfortunately a bit front loaded. Ambient sounds on the other hand are extremely immersive with things like rain coming through the entire soundstage. Dialogue, sound effects, and score are all well mixed and properly prioritized. It’s not the best mix on blu-ray from Paramount but it is top notch.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc release comes packaged in a standard slim blu-ray amazray case with artwork taken right from the original theatrical poster. The art is just OK being focused exclusively on Daniel craig and not on the other aspects of the film that might have sold the disc a little better.
First up for bonus features is an audio commentary from director Edward Zwick. The commentary offers tons of behind the scenes information about the film from shooting locations to the cast and what drew Zwick to the project. It’s low key but extremely informative.
“Defiance: Return to the Forest” is a half hour long above average making of featurette. The short documentary is built on predictable segments including behind the scenes footage, cast and crew interviews and some focus on costumes and weapons. A standout interview comes from the actor’s dialect coach. The director talks about the story and the actors talk about their characters. It’s typical stuff but it’s well done.
“Children of the Otriad: The Families Speak” is a fifteen minute interview with the children and grandchildren of the brothers. These family members offer a great deal of information about these historical figures. There’s also some home video footage and a sequence where the family visits the set of the film. Really good stuff.
“Scoring Defiance” is a brief featurette covering the music of the film. There’s also a photo gallery of the real survivors of the ordeal, and two theatrical trailers. It’s nice to see the trailers included here. It seems like more and more the trailers are being left of these discs lately.
Defiance should have been a fantastic film. There’s a solid cast a good director, and a fascinating story, but it just never quite comes together like it should. With that said, the story is truly fascinating and it makes the film worth a look for sure.
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 8.5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10