The 4,587th film about the Holocaust to open in the past six months, Defiance dramatizes the lives of the Bielski brothers, four Jewish Poles who mounted an insurgent campaign against the Nazis during World War II. Hiding Jews in the forest and making a lot of meaningful statements, the two oldest brothers, Tuvia (Daniel Craig) and Zus (Liev Schreiber), both stand on their own and fight alongside Soviets; probably the best way to summarize the proceedings is that the film's score features a lot of violin.
The first Edward Zwick movie I saw was 1989's Civil War epic Glory, which my eighth grade US history teacher, Mr. Pederson, showed my class on a day he was feeling lazy. Just like Glory (or The Last Samurai, or Blood Diamond, or Legends of the Fall, or any other Zwick movie, really), Defiance finds serious subject matter and then buffs and shines it into pretty, disposable pop. There's drama here, but no resonance; as events both historical and melodramatic trundle past, it all feels weirdly floaty and hollow. "Our revenge is to live!" Craig intones early on, and you can tell that Zwick thinks he's making something really important here—when really, he's just the premier director of bland, vaguely informative melodramas that get shown to eighth graders.