The Way Back (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/12/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 133 mins Impressively directed, sharply written and beautifully shot, this is a powerfully emotional drama with terrific performances from Harris, Farrell and Sturgess.

What's it all about?
Directed by Peter Weir, The Way Back is based on the memoir (since disputed, though it seems as if someone else really did make the journey) by Slavomir Rawicz, and stars Jim Sturgess as Janusz, a Polish man who's sent to a Siberian gulag in 1939 after the Soviets force his wife to falsely denounce him as a spy. Given a choice between freezing to death, starving to death or being stabbed by one of the gulag's vicious inmates, Janusz decides to escape, along with six other prisoners: grizzled ex-pat American Mr Smith (Ed Harris), resourceful, knife-happy Russian criminal Valka (Colin Farrell), artist Tomasz (Alexandru Potocean), wise-cracking Zoran (Dragos Bucur), friendly Latvian Voss (Gustaf Skarsgard) and night-blind Kazik (Sebastian Urzendowsky).

Initially heading for Lake Baikal, the first 300 miles takes them through blizzards and gruelling sub-zero temperatures, during which they pick up Irena (Saoirse Ronan), a young Polish girl. However, there's still over 4,000 miles to go before they reach their intended destination of Communism-free India, a journey that includes both the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas.

The Good
Sturgess proves a solid, likeable lead and more than holds his own against both the always-excellent Harris and another scene-stealingly brilliant performance from Farrell. Ronan is good too, though her obviously fictionalised character seems a little too contrived, while there's colourful support from Mark Strong as a fellow inmate and each of the other actors gets their moment, even if their characters aren't quite as fleshed out as the three leads.

The film is beautifully shot, with striking cinematography by Russell Boyd, who makes the most of a variety of extreme locations (it was shot in Bulgaria, Morocco, Australia and India). There's also a terrific score by Burkhard Dallwitz that really adds to the epic, David Lean-style sweep of the film

The Great
Weir's films often pit man against nature and The Way Back is no exception, with several powerful scenes as the group battle against the elements. It even offers a few handy tips for dealing with the current British weather situation, such as making face masks out of bark if you're caught in a blizzard.

Worth seeing?
The Way Back is an impressively directed, superbly acted and emotionally engaging drama that's genuinely inspiring and a powerful testament to the human spirit. Recommended.

Film Trailer

The Way Back (12A)
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Content updated: 19/08/2018 02:41

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