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Published: 8 January 2009

Daniel Craig puts in another strong performance in Defiance
Daniel Craig’s survival battle in moving true story

Directed by Edward Zwick
Certificate 15

THEY were heroes – yet the Bielski brothers had bravery thrust upon them, their courage coming to the fore when prompted to act by the terrible circumstances they found themselves in.
Based on a little-known event that took place in the Second World War, their story is a hugely moving tale, yet done without sentimentality. It is well shot, brilliantly acted, and incredibly tense.
Starring Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell and Liev Schrieber, it tells of how three farmer brothers escaped the clutches of the SS, hid in forests in Belarus and fought not just a partisan campaign against the invading Nazis, but set about rescuing other Jewish people from the Holocaust and keeping them safe until the war was won.
The Bielskis established a secret village, complete with an underground hospital, a theatre, school and synagogue, a bakery, bath house and a mill, while the German war machine swarmed around them.
Craig plays Tuvia Bielski. He and his two brothers, Zus and Asael, were not ready to bow in the face of the Nazis, and their story of how they fought back is exceptional. It became folklore. As the Russian forces swept through the country, driving back the Wehrmacht, 1,200 Jewish people emerged from the forests, like ghosts of the communities that had been murdered. As a piece of fiction, it would make a marvellous tale, but as you watch the story unfold, and keep reminding yourself that it is true, your wonder can only increase.
It seems that after every new film he is involved in, Craig’s talent increases. Both his outings as Bond have reinvigorated the series, becoming the best 007 since Sean Connery. As the South African Mossad agent in Munich, his blue eyes were steel-cold, and he turned in a top-drawer performance.
Director Ed Zwick is ready to tackle personal stories with global events as their backdrops – he was behind the film Blood Diamond, about African civil wars and the mining industry, while his film Glory spoke of the role African-Americans played in the American Civil war.
As Defiance illustrates, while at first the desire for vengeance was strong, the three also gradually realised they had a humanitarian mission which was vital for the future: to save as many Jews from the death camps as possible.
This is a story that deserves the big-screen treatment.
After the war, Tuvia moved to the US and worked as a truck driver, earning little and finally dying in 1987, a poor, tired old man whose incredible work was known by few.
Now his memory is secured. This film is a testimony to his, and others’ resilience and bravery.

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