- Released Internationally on 16/01/09
- Released in Malta by KRS on 21/01/09
In a nutshell
The new blond Bond, Daniel Craig, returns as a very different type of hero in the moving true story of Tuvia Bielski, who along with his brothers helped an ever-growing band of Polish Jews survive the Holocaust for over two years in the forests of what is now Belarus.
Over sixty years later, the second world war still has lots to offer in terms of shocking and heroic story-telling. Whether it’s fiction and extrapolation such as Life is Beautiful or the recent Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, or fascinating fact like Schindler’s List, Defiance or the upcoming Valkyrie, we still have a lot to learn from a war which most people alive today weren’t around for. The tales of villainy and valour are just as resonant today, as we face new wars and live through new forms of human tragedies, albeit often as detached observers. And this could very well be why the subject matter has produced some of the best and most enduring films of recent decades, apart from the evident opportunity to mix adventure and human emotion. This new addition to the endless story of the ‘great’ war is smaller in scope and focus, but just as important and interesting. As a true story it complements Schindler’s List as yet another story of supposedly selfish but ultimately generous individuals who by their leadership and defiance helped a definite number of individuals survive the holocaust, and start a new life after the war. For every descendant of those survivors, this story is all that matters.
Fight or Fly?
Orphaned at the start of the Nazi invasion, the four Bielski brothers are forced into hiding in the forest they know very well, in what occupied Poland. As time goes by their tiny band grows, and they refuse no one, despite struggling to cope with the numbers of mouths to feed. Their hiding place eventually takes on a more permanent form, and over months a small Jewish community grows in the depths of the forest. The community binds together out of necessity and a common enemy, and new relationships are formed. But the cruel winter and the inevitable frayed nerves and frustration threaten to tear the community apart.
Band of Brothers
Bielski himself cannot see eye-to-eye with his younger, but also adult brother Zus, who thinks fighting the Germans is a more honourable way to live than cowering amongst the trees and scavenging for food. But eventually they rejoin forces when it is most needed, and gather their community together in a last gasp run for freedom.
Who’s in it?
Bonding well with Craig’s Tuvia is Liev Schreiber (The Painted Veil, The Sum of All Fears) as his brother Zus. Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, King Kong) is surprisingly headfast for his age as their younger brother Asael, while relative newcomer George Mackay rounds off the family as the youngest brother Aron. The film is directed by Ed Zwick, who’s no newcomer to epic war films, having given us The Last Samurai, Courage Under Fire, Blood Diamond and Glory, as well as the expansive Legends of the Fall.
In the end
Craig is convincing as the dominant brother, but it’s not easy for him to shake off his Bond image, despite the dirt, grime and muted cinematography. The supporting cast are all great and bring a number of minor characters to life, and overall the plight of these defiant few becomes a moving issue, although their prospects are never really in doubt.