First Hit: This film is about a great WW II story but as filmed it didn’t work very well and left me unsatisfied.
The story is about three Jewish brothers, the Bielskis who saved a hundred plus Jews from execution by the Germans.
The film begins with the brother’s parents being found dead because they were Jews and the cooperative cruelty of the local police and German soldiers. The brothers take to the woods in Belarus to hide. They know these woods like the back of their hands and it is here they are joined by other Jews escaping the tyranny of Nazi Germany.
The older two brothers Tuvia and Zus (played by Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber respectively) have a falling out about how they are responding to their predicament. Zus wants to fight the Germans and ends up joining a group of Russian soldiers while Tuvia wants to hide, live and protect the 100 + people who are with him in the woods. In the end Tuvia’s group has to flee their woodland home as they are discovered and attacked by German planes.
When the Russian soldiers start to retreat, Zus makes a decision to stick it out and continue the fight. In the climactic scene the brothers are together again fighting as they defeat a German patrol, then they march off into the woods together, again.
There are a number of large and small dramatic scenes between the brothers and between others in the group but it didn’t create a really engaging story and I don’t know if the problem was the story, script, execution, or direction.
Both Craig and Schreiber have a strong screen presence and when they are on screen they easily become the focus. Their acting was strong as was the acting by others in smaller parts. A lot of the film was shot in the woods which could have been part of the problem with the film. Although to do this story it had to be shot in the woods and it reminded me of films shot mostly in and underwater. Films in water lose a level of intensity because the action and drama becomes dissipated by limitations of the environment the actors are working in.
Overall: This film was a letdown and although interesting it wasn’t compelling.