Defiance 2008

Critics score:
57 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Ben Mankiewicz, At the Movies: I felt like these characters were prototypes and not people. Read more

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: Craig and Schreiber are terrific as the slightly thuggish Bielskis, and they're joined by an able supporting cast that includes Jamie Bell and the wonderful Mia Wasikowska. Read more

Miranda Siegel, New York Magazine/Vulture: Occasionally schmaltzy, to be sure, but Schreiber makes a surprisingly awesome Rambo stand-in. Read more

Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader: Zwick, intent on correcting the perception of Jews as passive victims, lets the action set pieces overwhelm the more intimate scenes, several of which are already diminished by stilted dialogue. Read more

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: Despite all the resources brought to bear -- strong cast, ambitious scale, impressive logistics, dense detail, fine cinematography -- the production seldom makes the leap from elaborate play-acting to authentic drama. Read more

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: Ultimately, the film celebrates and memorializes the survival of something unthinkable, and a group of people for whom defiance meant, at heart, that they would push against the growing darkness and carry on. Read more

Nathan Rabin, AV Club: Defiance groans under the weight of its deadly earnestness: it's handsomely mounted yet strangely inert. Read more

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: Plays at times more like a soap opera than what it really is, a story that more of the world deserves to know. Read more

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: What the Bielski brothers did in the forests of Belorussia deserves to be remembered and celebrated, but this glossy studio production robs them of life. It's not just new Holocaust stories that we need, but new ways of telling them. Read more

Amy Nicholson, Boxoffice Magazine: As solemn as a bell toll and nearly as dull. Read more

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: The script hokes up the tensions between the brothers played by Craig and Schreiber, and while they're both fascinating, simmering-kettle performers, they consistently outshine their material. Read more

Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle: It is, all in all, a film as square-shouldered as its leads -- tough-minded, forcibly acted and conventionally spun by Zwick and co-writer Clayton Frohman. Read more

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: As a piece of historical redress, a great service has been done in bringing this narrative to the screen. Read more

Tom Long, Detroit News: The story is inspirational; the movie isn't. Read more

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: Defiance bogs down in a not very well-developed script. It's a repetitive stop-and-start action film, and Tuvia and Zus don't have enough layers.
 But they do kick ass charismatically. Read more

Eric D. Snider, The problem is the screenplay, which has weak, unforceful dialogue and tends to substitute dramatic events for characterization. Read more

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: Craig and Schreiber are two excellent actors, and both of them connect strongly with their roles as well as their fierce rivalry. Read more

Connie Ogle, Miami Herald: Defiance may lack the sort of emotional punch that sticks, but its story of courage and responsibility is undeniably compelling. Read more

Rafer Guzman, Newsday: Defiance comes alive in its quieter scenes and smaller details. Read more

David Denby, New Yorker: The picture offers the most moving account we've ever had of how an ordinary, rather disagreeable man, challenged and then electrified by catastrophe, grows into a great leader. Read more

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger: It's an unusual and important story. Which makes it even sadder that it's not better told. Read more

Bob Mondello, NPR: It's an inspiring story, if one that doesn't need quite as much poetic inspiration as Ed Zwick's movie insists on giving it. Read more

Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News: Defiance isn't afraid to stand apart. Read more

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: Defiance plods where it should soar, but it's still the best of this month's four (!) Holocaust movies -- if for no other reason than it confronts the common belief that European Jews didn't actively resist the Nazi onslaught. Read more

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: As corny and downright flirtatious as this 'Holocaust drama' gets, it's still a vivid and heroic look at a side of that tragedy that we haven't seen before. Read more

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: Defiance is a wobbly stool, a seat propped up by the uneven legs of ethics debate, Holocaust movie and action thriller. Still, the fascination and novelty of Nazi-killing Jews who don't perish in the death camps packs quite the wallop. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: Ultimately, the film works not just because of the character arc it provides for its main character but for its ultimate theme of the triumph over adversity. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: The story of Defiance has all the makings of a deep emotional experience, but I found myself oddly detached. Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: It's difficult, perhaps impossible, to make a gripping 137-minute epic about people standing around under the trees. Read more

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: The resistance drama Defiance just doesn't seem to have anything to add to the swastika overload currently clogging the nation's theaters. Read more

Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail: What is puzzling is how Edward Zwick has taken an extraordinary real-life story about a handful of people who defied huge odds, and turned it into an utterly conventional war movie. Read more

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: It's understandable and laudable that they desire not to sensationalize the Bielskis, and they've made a worthy film. But their understated approach makes the struggle seem less urgent than it must surely have been. Read more

Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine: It's a pretty good movie -- a bold, uneasy mix of romance, political debate and vigorous action. Read more

Ben Kenigsberg, Time Out: Read more

Tom Huddlestone, Time Out: 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. Read more

Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic: Read more

Claudia Puig, USA Today: Defiance resists bold, passionate storytelling and delivers something rather conventional. Read more

Todd McCarthy, Variety: A potentially exceptional story is told in a flatly unexceptional manner in Defiance. Read more

Ella Taylor, Village Voice: If there's one instance of the road to perdition paved with fat budgets and good intentions, it's Defiance, or, as I prefer to call it, Custersky's Last Stand in Belarus. Read more