Defiance, Edward Zwick, 137 mins, 15
Bride Wars, Gary Winick, 90 mins, 12A

Daniel Craig plays a Jewish fighter taking on the Nazis in a nearly classic war film

Though the second Holocaust-themed film to come out this Oscar season, and by no means the last, Defiance has the distinction of being one of the only films of this or any other year to allow Jews to be fighters in the Second World War, and not just nobly suffering prisoners.

It recounts the true story of Tuvia Bielski, a farmer's son who set up camp in a Belorussian forest in 1942. At first, his only companions were his brothers, but more and more refugees joined them until they'd established their own secret village, a base from which to strike back at the Nazis and their collaborators.

Daniel Craig stars as Tuvia Bielski. Craig might not be Jewish, but after his role in Munich, he's obviously the man who pops into casting directors' heads when they need a burly Jewish sharp-shooter. Tuvia's priority is to welcome as many people as possible into the enclave, and to build workshops and schools for them. But his younger brother Zus (Liev Schreiber) argues that every new arrival in the forest endangers those who are already there. He thinks they should concentrate on attacking Germans, even if that means teaming up with a squad of Russian soldiers who aren't much less anti-Semitic themselves. (Distractingly, the Jews speak accented English, while the Russian troops speak sub-titled Russian.) Jamie Bell plays a third Bielski brother, Asael, who has to choose between the agendas of survival and revenge set by his older siblings.

Defiance plunges into the action without any preamble, as the Bielskis' parents are dragged away by the SS. Impressively terse and unsentimental, the script mentions the wives and children the brothers had in peace time, but it doesn't slow things down by showing them. And once the Bielskis have become partisans, it doesn't shy away from the brutal choices Tuvia has to make if he's to keep his ill and undernourished followers together through an icy winter.

A substantial, stirring war film, Defiance might have been a classic, but Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond) can't resist padding out its later stretches with fluff. He softens the initial toughness with some cutesy scenes of Bell plucking up the courage to talk to his love interest, and with a pair of comic-relief philosophers who must have wandered in from Fiddler On The Roof. Craig makes a few too many quasi-Shakespearean inspirational speeches to his comrades, too. The most incongruous of these is delivered astride a white steed. Whether or not Tuvia did anything of the sort in real life, it's the kind of scene that is only permissible in a film if the Sheriff of Nottingham appears in the scene before.

Kate Hudson is so unerring in her selection of dreadful film roles that she makes Jennifer Lopez look like Meryl Streep, but not even she has been in anything as unbearable as Bride Wars, which she also produces.

Feminists should be picketing it for presenting women, without exception, as self-serving, back-stabbing airheads. A watch-between-splayed-fingers "comedy", it pairs Hudson with Anne Hathaway as two supposed best friends who want to get married in the same New York hotel on the same day. Neither of them will budge – or acknowledge the lesbian attraction that is the palpable subtext – so they set about sabotaging each other's weddings in ways that aren't nasty enough to make Bride Wars a black comedy, but are just nasty enough to make you wish that both heroines would choke on their bouquets. The sickly icing on this poisonous, five-tier cake is that after 90 minutes of psychotic obnoxiousness, Bride Wars concludes with a bizarrely inappropriate sermon about how valuable it is to have a loyal friend. We could already have the worst film of 2009.

Also showing: 11/01/2009

Sex Drive (105 mins, 15)

Equal parts 'The Sure Thing', 'American Pie', 'Road Trips' and 'Superbad', 'Sex Drive' is a teen comedy about a virginal geek (albeit a handsome one) who crosses the mid-West with two friends in a 'Dukes Of Hazzard' car to meet the wet-dream girl he's been flirting with on the net. Once you get past the notion that every woman in America is a nubile nymphomaniac, there are some inspired set pieces, and excellent cameos from Seth Green and James Marsden. It's also well structured. File under: Guilty Pleasure.

Role Models (98 mins, 15)

And in case one crude, breast-fixated comedy isn't enough for you ... Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott avoid a prison sentence by agreeing to mentor two children, a trash-talking hooligan and a nerdy live action role-player. It's not bad, mainly because Rudd and Scott have so much slouchy charisma that you forget that they're not saying anything very funny.

Hannah Takes The Stairs (83 mins, tbc)

Zero-budget indie movie populated by neurotic twenty-somethings who could be Woody Allen's offspring. The central love quadrangle is more realistic than that in most relationship comedies, although the halting, vapid, improvised dialogue is a little too realistic for its own good.

Stuck (85 mins, 15)

Mena Suvari is a care-home nurse who drives into Stephen Rea, and then locks the car in her garage, leaving him embedded in her windscreen. Thin, bloody exploitation thriller.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?