Defiance - description
Defiance is a 2008 World War II era film written, produced, and directed by Edward Zwick, set during the occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany. The film is an account of the Bielski partisans, a group led by four Jewish brothers who saved and recruited Jews in Poland (now Belarus) during the Second World War. The film stars Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, Liev Schreiber as Zus Bielski, Jamie Bell as Asael Bielski, and George MacKay as Aron Bielski.
Production began in early September 2007 and had a limited release in the United States on December 31, 2008. It went into general release worldwide on January 16, 2009 and was released on home media on June 2, 2009. The film was an adaptation of Nechama Tec's book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans.
The film opens with on-screen text stating: "A true story". It is August 1941 and Nazi forces are sweeping through Eastern Europe, targeting Jewish people. Among the survivors not killed or restricted to ghettoes are the Bielski brothers, who are Jews: Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), Asael (Jamie Bell), and Aron (George MacKay). Their parents are dead, slain by the local police under orders from the occupying Germans. The brothers flee to the Białowieża Forest, vowing to avenge their parents.
They encounter other Jewish escapees hiding in the forest and the brothers take them under their protection and leadership. Over the next year, they shelter a growing number of refugees, raiding local farms for food and supplies, moving their camp whenever they are discovered by the collaborating police. Tuvia kills the local police chief responsible for his parents' deaths and the brothers stage raids on the Germans and their collaborators; however, Jewish casualties cause Tuvia to reconsider this approach because of the resulting risk to the hiding Jews. A long-time sibling rivalry between the two eldest brothers, Tuvia and Zus, fuels a disagreement between them about their future: as winter approaches, Zus elects to leave his brothers and the camp and join a local company of Soviet partisans, while his older brother Tuvia remains with the camp as their leader. An arrangement is made between the two groups in which the Soviet partisans agree to protect the Jewish camp in exchange for supplies.
After a winter of sickness, starvation, attempted betrayal and constant hiding, the camp learns that the Germans are about to attack them in force. The Soviets refuse to help them and they evacuate the camp as German dive-bombers strike. A delaying force stays behind, led by Asael, to slow down the German ground troops. The defense does not last long, with only Asael and Sofiya surviving to rejoin the rest of the group, who, at the edge of the forest, are confronted with a seemingly impassable marsh. They cross the marsh, but are immediately attacked by German infantry supported by a Panzer III. Tuvia then flanks the tank with a captured MG34 and turns it on the Nazi soldiers. Isaac is shot and killed while trying to throw a grenade which detonates on him. Just as all seems lost, the Germans are assaulted from the rear by a partisan force led by Zus, which has apparently deserted the Soviet retreat to rejoin the group. As the survivors escape into the forest, the film ends as on-screen text states that they lived in the forest for another two years, building a hospital and a school, ultimately growing to a total of 1,200 Jews. Original photographs of the real-life characters are shown, including Tuvia Bielski in his Polish Army uniform, and tells their ultimate fates: that Asael joined the Soviet Army and was soon killed in action, and that Tuvia and Zus survived the war and emigrated to America to form a successful trucking firm in New York City. The epilogue also states that the Bielskis never sought recognition for what they did, and that the descendants of the people they saved now number in the tens of thousands.