Film: Defiance

Defiance is a 2008 film directed by Edward Zwick, who co-wrote the movie with Clayton Frohman, based on a book ("Defiance: the Bielski Partisans") by Nechama Tec. It stars Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell (of Billy Elliot fame). It follows the Bielski brothers, four Belarusian Jews who escape the first wave of SS murders in late 1941, only to decide that they need to fight back. The resulting resistance group grows, taking in more and more displaced Jews, until its a genuine thorn in the side of the Nazi advance, forcing the Germans to retaliate.

This film provides examples of:

  • Based on a True Story: About the actual Bielski Partisans.
  • The Cavalry: At the end of the movie, the fleeing Bielski Partisans are surrounded by the German army, then saved by the sudden arrival of Russian partisans.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: At the beginning of this film, we see black-and-white film footage of German soldiers rounding up Jews. We cut to a scene which you swiftly realise is not contemporary footage, which then turns into color. At the end of the film, things return to black-and-white.
  • I Have a Family: The Jewish partisans capture a terrified Nazi soldier, who tells them he has a wife and two kids. One of the partisans yells out, "So did I!" They beat the Nazi to death while yelling about their lost relatives.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Some Belarusians collaborate with the Germans and are eventually murdered by the partisans.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Execution of Belarusian collaborators. There is also a scene near the end where a German soldier captured by the Bielski Partisans is beatten to death by the unnamed civilians of the group.
  • Oscar Bait: The film might be one of the more shamelessly obvious, borderline cynical attempts at an Oscar grab. It's Based on a True Story, set during the Holocaust, and follows a community of Belarusian Jews as they hide in the forests and fight back against the Nazis (in other words: Oscar gold). It has the fairly standard dark and gritty tone favored by Academy voters, with a brooding Anti-Hero (played by frequent award winner Daniel Craig) forced into cruel, angsty moral dilemmas that play out as if saying "you seeing this, voters?" The film ends with a short montage of the fates of the people depicted, with real life pictures and the assurance that the descendants of this group numbers in the tens of thousands today. And it cut it's release as close to Oscar time as possible with a limited release on December 31st of the qualifying year. Ironically enough, in spite of having pretty much everything needed for a total Oscar blowout, it only received nominations for its music from both Academy Awards and Golden Globes.
  • La Résistance: The Bielski Partisans form such a group against German occupation of Belarus, as did the Russian partisans also featured in the movie.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: One of the non-combatant Jews rush a group of German soldiers with a live grenade, only to be shot a few yards into his charge and for his grenade to blow up by his body.
    • Made worse that he only needed to wait a few more seconds before help arrived making his attempt even more futile.
  • Spiritual Successor: Could be said to be so to Edward Zwick's earlier war film Glory.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Collaboration between Bielski Partisans and Russian partisans happened to be quite problematic, thank to rampant antisemitism of the Russian population.
  • Translation Convention: Yiddish is English with Just a Stupid Accent. Although Russian and German remain the same and are often subtitled, occasionally the main characters will speak English with Soviet soldiers, who are unlikely to have known Yiddish. Despite taking place in Belarus, Belarusian is never spoken