by Jeff Niesel
When Defiance and Revolutionary Road made their respective theatrical runs late last year, they under-performed at the box office and didn’t garner the kind of award nominations their studios probably anticipated. Even by art house film standards, net grosses in the 20 million dollar range aren’t much. So it’s fitting, then, that both arrive on DVD today (and some stores have even packaged the discs together). They’re both really good films that probably didn’t receive their fair share of attention when they initially came out.
Based on a true story, Defiance stars Daniel Craig and Liev Shreiber as Tuvia and Zus Bielski, two brothers whose parents die at the hands of the Nazis. They head to the woods where they arm themselves and build a small compound with a group of Jewish refugees. Tuvia is the more rational of the two brothers and preaches self-defense rather than vengeance. Zus, however, is more violent, and he joins a group of Russian soldiers so that he can get his revenge. Though director Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond) opts to include a few too many shootouts, there’s no denying the story is compelling. As Zwick himself says during an interview included on as one of the disc’s special features, “It’s a remarkable story unto itself, sometimes you want to let the story tell itself and get out of the way.” Extras on the DVD include: a feature on the making of the movie that takes you behind-the-scenes to the forest where they filmed most of the footage; interviews with children of some of the survivors; and a set of black and white photos of the survivors taken in 2008 by Zwick.
Revolutionary Road, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s first pairing since Titanic didn’t yield the same box office record numbers as that flick about the sinking ship, yet that doesn’t make their performances any less significant. As Frank and April Wheeler, Dicaprio and Winslet are a suburban couple who fight like dogs. Their problem isn’t easy to diagnose. Frank’s got an office job that pays well but was handed to him by his late father. April was once an aspiring actress who’s settled for becoming a housewife. They’re both lonely and screwed-up yet they still harbor fantasies of just packing up and moving to Paris one day. Winslet is so terrific in the film, she’s arguably better here than in The Reader, the film that earned her an Oscar. Extras on the DVD include a feature about the making of the movie that includes interviews with director Sam Mendes (American Beauty), DiCaprio and Winslet. “It’s a tragic love story about two people who feel they are supposed to be together but can’t make it work,” explains Mendes, who was essentially recruited by Winslet to make the film. In fact, after viewing the extras, you'll come away thinking this was a Winslet movie more than a Mendes movie.