The Way Back (2010)

26 December 2010

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The Way Back. Directed by six-time Academy Award® nominee PETER WEIR (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), and features enthralling performances from an all-star cast including COLIN FARRELL(Crazy Heart, In Bruges), JIM STURGESS (The Other Boleyn Girl, Across the Universe) and ED HARRIS (A Beautiful Mind, The Truman Show) who break free from a Siberian Gulag on a treacherous and adrenalin-fuelled journey across 4,000 miles of hostile terrain. Also featuring an acclaimed supporting cast including MARK STRONG(Robin Hood, RocknRolla) and Academy Award® nominee SAOIRSE RONAN (Atonement, The Lovely Bones),THE WAY BACK is an un-missable adventure.

Under cover of a night time blizzard, seven prisoners caught up in Stalin's Reign of Terror escape a Soviet Gulag prison in 1940. They are now free men and almost certainly dead men, for their impending trek to safety defies any reasonable chance of success and the landscape they must cross is unforgiving. With little food or equipment, and no certainty of their location or intended direction, they embark on a journey that will present unimaginable hardship and drama.

Driven by basic animal instincts; survival and fear, whilst relying on evolved human traits; compassion and trust, the group endures transformative experiences that are profound and abysmal, anguished and ecstatic. All the while, they abide by one unceasing mandate: keep moving, keep moving, keep moving?

Impressively directed and sharply written by Peter Weir and executive producer Keith Clarke, THE WAY BACK is inspired by Slavomir Rawicz's acclaimed book The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom.

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"the cinematography its beautiful and the performances are solid"

The Way Back is an epic and unrushed (2 1/4 hours) trek from a Soviet Gulag to the green hills of India, which is beautifully filmed and a superbly acted piece. Let it take its time; it is thrilling and appalling, but also beautiful.

The story, which director Peter Weir apparently has long wanted to film, is based on the account of a Polish army officer who later moved to England and wrote the book "The Long Walk," describing the journey he took with seven others. The film 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.

The main question is, who you can trust. Common criminals - murderers, sadists and rapists - are handed control of the camps under the armed supervision of Soviet sentries. Top of the pack is Colin Farrell's street-smart cut-throat character. The small group of soldiers escape from the Siberian Gulag and head south through icy forests to Mongolia...and freedom.

Visually in terms of the cinematography its beautiful and the performances are solid by all but for the final 2/3rds not a lot really happens. There is a lot of walking over various terrains, Pseudo Philosophical campfire chit chat and the finding of a fine selection of water sources but that's about it. I didn't really feel any great empathy with any of the characters and started to see their deaths as signals that the end was in site (in terms of the film).

It's wonderful that Jim Sturgess gets a chance to redeem himself from the disastrous flop 21. The adolescent Saoirse Ronan adds to her impressive resume with an understated performance that sparkles against the men's terse asperity.

Ultimately it should satisfy those with a historical curiosity or a taste for expert filmmaking more than those looking for an entertaining story.

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DVD cover
  • Release Date
  • 09 May 2011
  • Technical Features / Extras
  • Format: Anamorphic. Colour. PAL. Subtitled. Widescreen
  • Language English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 12