Poor Ed Zwick; cursed by a forgettable fairy to specialise in mediocre movies. Think of Glory (a white-guilt theme tune waiting on a massacre), or Legends of the Fall (men’s grooming meets WWI), or The Last Samurai (Japanese Imperialism as self-help instruction). Here is a man who took the yuppie ideals of thirtysomething and made a career out of them. So war becomes the issue of the week; each conflict helping people make peace with themselves. His latest is called Defiance. It’s about Jewish partisans fighting the Nazis. Zwick appears to have made it for a buck fifty. Even the bullets look bored.
Every critic has their irrational prejudice. For Pauline Kael it was Oliver Stone; for Ebert it’s Rob Schneider; for me it’s British movies. Something about their heir-to-the-kitchen-sink-drama, made-for-TV fustiness grates on me. British movies, to my mind, spell grey-skies and social-issues; I tense at their approach, expecting to be lectured. I’ve tried to like Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Shane Meadows and the rest. But I can’t. I like my sunshine when I go to the cinema. That’s why I put off for so long seeing Billy Elliott. I had no problem with the premise: boy learns ballet, father disapproves. But then I read how the story was set against the backdrop of the coal miners’ strike of the 1980s… The rest was entirely my fault. Here I make amends.