|DVD The Way Back
Run time: 133 min
Genres: Adventure | Drama | History
Director: Peter Weir
Writers: Keith R. Clarke, Slavomir Rawicz
Stars: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell
In 1941, three men reach India from Tibet, having walked 4000 miles after escaping a Siberian gulag. The film tells their story and that of four others who escaped with them and a teenage girl who joins them in flight. The group’s natural leader is Janusz, a Pole condemned by accusations secured by torturing his wife; he knows how to live in the wilds. They escape under cover of a snowstorm: a cynical American, a Russian thug, a comic accountant, a pastry chef who draws, a priest, and a Pole with night blindness. They face freezing nights, lack of food and water, mosquitoes, an endless desert, the Himalayas, and moral questions of when to leave someone behind. Written by <email@example.com>
|Plot Keywords: gulag, desert, night blindness, priest, american|
Country: USA, United Arab Emirates, Poland
Release Date: 21 January 2011 (USA)
Opening Weekend: $1,208,196 (USA) (21 January 2011)
Gross: $2,677,401 (USA) (18 February 2011)
This was a long film but I was unaware of the length because I was so thoroughly engrossed. The scenery and the photography were simply spell binding but more than that, this was a story about the indomitable spirit of people faced with desperate odds told with sensitivity and at times, humour. Others have commented on the quality of the acting, the accuracy of the story and the cinema-photography; I want to comment on a different aspect of the film. We hear and see a great deal about the crimes of the Nazis during this period but very little about the crimes of the Soviet system. This film is not a "dull metaphor" of the Cold War as one reviewer has said If this films sparks a little enquiry amongst its audiences it will have done a great service to the memory of Poles and other eastern Europeans who suffered the double tragedy of Nazi and then Communist occupation. When Nazism was defeated in 1945, half of Europe was just beginning a sentence in Communist bondage that was to last another thirty five years. This aspect of the story is all the more effective because it is told through the eyes of a small group of people and at a personal level. At the end of this film, the entire audience sat still for about fifteen seconds. There was not the usual end of film scrum. People just needed a moment to absorb what they had sen. This was the best film of the year!
I went with my friends to see this the other day – we picked whatever film was on soonest at the cinema. The Way Back was on…and we went in. I had no idea what the film was about only that I'd heard that "People walk out of Russia".
This film really had you captivated for the entire journey – and you really connect with the characters within it, so much so you experience their emotions with them – you laugh with them, you are on the verge of tears at moments, and you feel their determination.
The acting was great – there were some familiar faces in the likes of Jim Sturgess (21) and Ed Harris (everything else)…and they do very well in their roles. Colin Farrell finds himself taking a respectable role in a respectable film – and does a very good job at it – and even manages to work a Russian accent, which he pulls off – and he pulls it off well. Surprisingly well, actually! Saoirse Ronan, at 15/16, is incredible in this. Given her youth, she manages to draw in the audience with her character's history and gravitas. The other actors within this, despite them being relatively unknown on the Hollywood stage, join the cast well, and the chemistry is there to make the journey and the true stamina of the group believable.
The cinematography was immense, with shots overlooking parts of Russia, Mongolia, Tibet, and India – just helps you realise the vastness of the journey. Most of the journey is filmed looking closely at the characters, but this is what is crucial to the audience enjoying the story. You can't have 2hrs and 13 mins of beautiful scenery and see the intimate struggles with each of the characters…therefore the director does well to mix the two. The audience can see just what the struggles and difficulties are…but are treated to some amazing shots of the scenery, which make you realise how incredible this journey was. (I even got a map out later and routed the journey they took)
I should expect that this film would receive some Oscar nominations, maybe for cinematography, director, perhaps even best picture, but I would love to see Jim Sturgess having a nomination for his role.
Peter Weir's follow-up to Master & Commander (2003) is the unflinching, stark, & brilliant The Way Back, which takes on the weighty theme of man's struggle for freedom.
At the dawn of WWII, several men escape from a Russian gulag. The film details their perilous & uncertain journey to freedom, as they cross deserts, mountains, & several nations.
The cast is a clever mix of seasoned pros & relative newcomers. Ed Harris, in the role of the sole American, lends his usual gravitas. Colin Farrell borrows from his In Bruges character, but the addition of bad jailhouse tattoos is wildly amusing, & his Russian is quite passable. It's always nice to see Mister Farrell doing serious work, rather than bland fluff like Miami Vice or SWAT. Mark Strong's brief, but plot-essential appearance is joyous.
Jim Sturgess gets a chance to redeem himself from the disastrous flop 21, & does a fine job here, as the central character. & the adolescent Saoirse Ronan belies her extensive & impressive resume with an understated performance that sparkles against the men's terse asperity.
Breathtaking vistas that serve as the backdrop to the cast's efforts lend The Way Back an epic feel, echoed by mature editing, & mavellously restrained use of music.
This is, quite possibly, the most serious film Peter Weir has ever directed, & the result is both thought-provoking & inspiring. We can only hope that it gets a proper release, & is allowed an opportunity to reach its grown-up audience.
Anyone familiar with Peter Weir's incredible body of work – particularly his earlier Australian-produced movies – knows that a new Weir movie is an important event indeed. Almost all Weir's too-infrequent movies are at least noteworthy (Witness, Dead Poets Society) if not downright great (Year of Living Dangerously, The Last Wave).
With The Way Back, Weir may have made his greatest film ever. An epic and unrushed (2 1/4 hours) trek from a Soviet Gulag to the green hills of India, this is a beautifully filmed and superbly acted piece. Let it take its time; it is thrilling and appalling, but also beautiful.
The story, which Weir apparently has long wanted to film, is based on the account of a Polish army officer who later moved to England and wrote (with a ghost-writer) the book "The Long Walk," describing the journey he took with seven others. The movie is quite true to the book, right down to the American "Mr. Smith," Ed Harris' character. While the veracity of the story in the book has been questioned, that doesn't interfere with the great film-making.
Harris is fine as always, as is Colin Farrell as a Russian thug, but it is Jim Sturgess, as the Polish leader of the expedition, who has the most bravura performance.
Bravo to the cast, cinematographer, and most of all, Mr. Weir.