Who’s In It: Daniel Craig, Live Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Mark Feuerstein
The Basics: Three Russian Jewish brothers escape the systematic Nazi extermination of their people and go into hiding in the woods. As more and more refugees find them and follow their lead, a community springs up in the forest (complete with “forest wives”). Lucky for them that they also stole a bunch of guns because eventually the soldiers of the Third Reich go hunting and the Chosen People have to get all crazy with the firepower.
What’s The Deal: Any movie that rips off The Poseidon Adventure is more or less okay in my book. Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber duke it out like Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine over who’s going to be Alpha Male and boss everyone else around, so that makes for some good tense moments. There's even a "Who's with me?" scene that's kind of like when they all climb the upside-down Christmas tree. Another excellent hook is the way it upends Jews-in-WW2 clichés, replacing cowering victims with brutish, testosterone-fueled renegades who aren’t afraid of machine guns or midnight raids on Nazi supply camps. Not for nothing is one of these guys the meanest James Bond ever.
What Director Edward Zwick Knows: He’s a decent action director. When the fighting is going down and bad Aryans are getting blown away, suddenly there’s a cool movie happening. If you’ve seen Glory or The Last Samurai then you know this is true. He can shoot a battle scene.
What Director Edward Zwick Doesn’t Know: That action movies are a drag when you overlay them with typical dignified, noble, Oscar season Holocaust movie stuff. It drags the whole thing down into fake "importance." Can’t we just put bullets in Nazi skulls and be done with it?
What "Based On A True Story" Means: It’s adapted from the book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, and there are some discrepancies between how much the partisans went out and actively fought versus how much they were simply survivalists. Not that it matters really. You want there to be some ass-kicking in a movie like this and that’s what you get.