Opening 23 Apr 2009
1941, World War II, Eastern Europe: the four Bielski brothers escape to the Belarus forest after Nazis purge Nowogródek, a Jewish ghetto in Poland. Together with a small core of fellow ghetto survivors, they evolve into a partisan combat group and make their imprint on history.
Eldest brother Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) takes command of the group, albeit second brother Zus (Liev Schreiber) reluctantly accommodates him; they have conflicting ideas on how best to manage their survival – one wants to save lives, the other wants to kill the occupiers. Asael (Jamie Bell) and youngest brother Aron (George MacKay) support the camp, especially as more survivors daily descend on them. Tuvia infiltrates the ghetto he has escaped to bring out more Jews; Zus joins a group of Soviet partisans. The film zigzags between Tuvia and Zus and the precarious predicaments each encounter.
Edward Zwick both directed and wrote the screenplay with Clayton Frohman. The film’s technical attributes are first rate; the cast give good quality performances. But emotional punch is sacrificed by the director’s heavy-handedness. Not trusting us, the audience, to interpret emotional nuances, Zwick adds syrupy solo violin music (Joshua Bell) under various scenes; additionally the script has too many mundane one to three liners that add to the film’s length, not quality. Unnecessary, since 1,200 Jewish people surviving clandestinely in a forest over two years during WWII is a story of monumental magnitude, if told simply and well, even for the least savvy viewer. (Marinell Haegelin)