In 1941, three men attempt to flee communist Russia, 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, spent much of his youth outdoors, and knows how to live in the wild. They escape under cover of a snowstorm: a cynical American, a Russian thug, a comedic 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, as well as many moral and ethical dilemmas throughout the journey towards freedom. Written by
<firstname.lastname@example.org>, Shahob, Bellingham, WA, US
The film begins with the following statement: "In 1941 three men walked out of the Himalayas into India. They had survived a 4000 mile walk to freedom. This film is dedicated to them." This is accurate and based on historical evidence, but those 3 men were not Slavomir Rawicz or others from his largely fictitious escape story. The BBC reported in 2010: "We learned of a British intelligence officer who said he had interviewed a group of haggard men in Calcutta in 1942 - a group of men who had escaped from Siberia and then walked all the way to India. And then from New Zealand came news of a Polish engineer who had apparently acted as an interpreter for this very same interview in Calcutta with the wretched survivors. These stories are second-hand, and far from conclusive proof, but for Mr Weir [director Peter Weir], they convinced him that there was an essential truth in the story that he wanted to retain: 'There was enough for me to say that three men had come out of the Himalayas, and that's how I dedicate my film, to these unknown survivors. And then I proceed with essentially a fictional film.' This is why the film has a new title, 'The Way Back', and why the central character is not called Slavomir Rawicz." See more »
When Irena is being carried in the desert, the film gets flipped. First she was on the left side, then during a close-up she is on the right, then when they go back out she's on the left again. See more »
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.
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