Defiance (Blu-ray) Studio: Paramount Rated: R (for language and violence) Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+ Time: 136 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 2008 Blu-Ray Release Date: June 2, 2009 In 1941, the Bielski family’s home is attacked by Nazi soldiers and local police as they trounce across the countryside searching for and killing Jews. Four of the Bielski brothers, Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), Asael (Jamie Bell) and Aron (George MacKay) flee into the surrounding Lipiczanska Forest. They meet other displaced Jews who are running for their lives and soon, a temporary settlement is established. More refugees find the Bielski’s and Tuvia becomes the leader of the group as they begin raids of Nazi patrols for weapons, food and medicine. They name their resistance movement the “Bielski Otriad” (a partisan detachment). Tuvia and Zus have a very deep seeded rivalry, with Tuvia more concerned with taking in more people (whom they really can’t care for) and Zus who thinks the group needs to fight more. Zus eventually leaves his family to work with the Russian soldiers as they combat the Nazi’s. Life in the forest is tough, with winter bringing increased sickness and diminished amounts of food. The Nazi’s continue their pursuit of the Otriad and they may not be able to run far enough from the impending slaughter. The true story of the Bielski brothers and their lives is brought to us by director and co-screenwriter Edward Zwick and co-screenwriter Clayton Frohman based on the book by Nechama Tec. Defiance downplays its star power in Craig and Schreiber by giving them fascinating and passionate characters to portray. The rivalry between the two is shown as philosophical and religious, reinforcing the biblical themes of the Exodus and the story of Cain and Abel. The movie itself gives us a lot of emotion and anger to digest during its run time and Zwick gives us a break during the well done action scenes. I’ve not been a big fan of Zwick in the past as I find him to be very technically proficient but failing to infuse his pictures with the right amount of emotion. Here, he finally corrects that issue with not only the story itself but he seems to have taken more time to work with his actors. While it’s not the easiest picture to watch due to the implicit subject matter, it reminds of how little we truly need to survive. Movie: ****/***** Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment. The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Given the recent vintage of this release, we are given a nice video transfer that is crisp and clean, lacking any noticeable dirt, noise, or other negative artifacts. Contrast seems slightly boosted and the image is slightly de-saturated of color, keeping in line with the natural greens and browns in the forest setting. Interior scenes show a warmer palate, with rooms lit by candlelight or weak bulbs. Flesh tones are smooth and accurate, and they are at the whim of the aforementioned color attributes, and you can see excellent detail in each of the actors faces. Detail and sharpness are excellent and the close-ups of Craig and Schreiber allow you to see their pores and scruff beards in all their glory. The foliage also comes to life in this respect. The forest setting provides a great exercise in image depth almost making the trees and branches pop out at you. Black levels are deep showing a nice amount of detail. Video: ****.5/***** Audio: The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI. I watched the feature with the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track engaged. The soundtrack is fairly active, especially in the battle scenes, with good panning throughout all channels. Surrounds were very active providing not only ambience in the camp but whizzing bullets and mortar explosions in the action scenes. LFE’s were used often, again especially during the action scenes, exhibiting some thrilling rumble. Dynamic range is good emphasizing the bark of the machine guns, pistols and shotguns. The mix provides a very nice, tight soundstage with the viewer place in the middle. The soundtrack was free from any distortion, and the actor’s voices sounded smooth and natural. Audio: ****.5/***** Bonus Material: all items are in HD. Commentary with Director Edward Zwick: Zwick sounds like he’s reading a script but it is a very informative commentary filled with background of the Bielski’s family and the process of making the film. He also talks about the politics and racism of the time and he makes some keen observations relating this picture to his other ones. Defiance: Return to the Forest (26:05): a very usual “making of” piece with interviews with the cast and the filmmakers. Children of the Otriad: The Families Speak (13:14): the descendants of the Bielski brothers talk about their families and what they survived. There is some great home movie footage of Zus and Tuvia to really feel the connection with history. This is an excellent piece in the children’s own words. Scoring Defiance (7:00): violinist Josh Bell and Zwick discuss the music itself and its place in the movie. Bielski Partisan Survivors (1:58): this small piece shows some photos of the survivors of the Bielski Partisan Group taken by Zwick in 2008. Two theatrical trailers. Bonus Material: **.5/***** Conclusions: This story of partisans, survivors and those who fought back begged to be made, and the film makes and actors have brought these rich, historical figures (back) to life. The AV presentation of the disc is darn near perfect with an average set of extras.