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The Way Back (2010)

Ed Harris , Jim Sturgess , Peter Weir  |  PG-13 |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,256 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan, Colin Farrell, Mark Strong
  • Directors: Peter Weir
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 22, 2011
  • Run Time: 133 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,256 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004C45AZU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,017 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Way Back" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Four-time Oscar nominee, Ed Harris (Apollo 13), Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe) and Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Colin Farrell (In Bruges) star in this epic saga of survival from six-time Oscar-nominee Peter Weir (Witness, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World). Inspired by an incredible true story, The Way Back begins in 1940 when seven prisoners attempt the impossible: escape from a brutal Siberian gulag. Thus begins a treacherous 4,500-mile trek to freedom across the world's most merciless landscapes. They have little food and few supplies. They don't know or trust each other. But together, they must withstand nature at its most extreme. Their humanity is further tested when they meet a teenage runaway who begs to join them on their quest. A compelling testament to the human spirit, this gripping wilderness adventure is "Peter Weir at his hypnotic best" (Telluride Film Festival).

The title The Way Back takes on an epic grandeur when you consider that the "way" stretches from a Soviet prison camp somewhere deep in World War II Siberia all the way across the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas to India. This is the route walked by a group of escapees in Peter Weir's utterly gripping movie, which joins the list of cinema's great tales of incredible endurance across inhospitable places. The movie is drawn from a book by Slavomir Rawicz, which was originally released as nonfiction but has subsequently had its veracity substantially debunked (Weir proceeded with the film as a dramatized story because of an account that three people really had survived a similar trek during the war). The escapees include a Polish political prisoner (Jim Sturgess, Across the Universe), a Russian criminal (Colin Farrell), and an American (Ed Harris) who was caught working in Moscow when war broke out. Along with a few others, they break out of the gulag into a blizzard--it will cover their tracks in the snow--and along the 4,000-mile odyssey pick up a teenage girl (Saoirse Ronan) who also has reasons to flee the Soviet Union. This material was made for Peter Weir: the director's measured pace and near-physical sense of landscape gives the film an inexorable forward motion, yet nothing is rushed. And, whether crossing desert or dense forest, the film's purpose is to test how individual humanity might survive in extremity--in other words, despite the large canvas, the tiniest issues are very much in the foreground. And that, too, makes it a film by Peter Weir. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
355 of 366 people found the following review helpful
"The Way Back" is a masterpiece, a must-see film for thinking people and for lovers of cinema as a serious art form. I was on the edge of my seat through the entire film, and was stifling tears. I could not resist applauding at the end. I couldn't wait to discuss it with friends. Several hours after I left the theater, I kept seeing everything - a meaty sandwich, clean water flowing from the tap - through the prism of "The Way Back." I'm a long-time fan of director Peter Weir, who gave us classics like "Picnic at Hanging Rock," "Witness" and "The Year of Living Dangerously." Weir has outdone himself.

"The Way Back" depicts a long walk that Gulag escapees took from Siberia to India. I've been lucky enough, under luckier circumstances, to travel some of the world the film references, from Poland to the Himalaya. The film's authenticity in language, costume, even hairstyles, swept me up into its world.

Both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia attacked Poland in September, 1939, thus beginning World War Two. At first, the Communists killed and deported more people even than the genocidal Nazis. Over a million Poles were deported in cattle cars. Many died; many never returned. No one knows exact numbers. Many struggled to return home, traveling on foot through Eurasia, making shorter treks comparable to that depicted in "The Way Back;" I've met such people.

Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is a young Pole falsely accused by Soviets. His wife is tortured to force a confession. Without ceremony, he is shipped to hellish Siberian concentration camps and mines. Janusz determines to escape, with a ragtag, multilingual crew of followers.

Janusz is not particularly handsome, or muscular, or super intelligent. He doesn't have a commanding voice or swagger.
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87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The way back" to great American cinema February 1, 2011
Over the last decade, many have felt increasingly pessimistic about the state of modern American cinema, a growing wasteland of sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, flashy effects and trashy writing. There have been a few diamonds in the rough, but for the most part, we have watched the art of film rapidly devolve into a soulless industry with strictly financial motivations, pandering to the market of the lowest common denominator.

But the end of 2010 gave us hope for the next decade, with several strong releases, most notably this powerful offering from master film-maker Peter Weir (Gallipoli, Dead Poets Society, Fearless). Weir is at the top of his game, taking us on a journey which, despite its two-hour length, seems to end all too soon. As we follow a group of desperate Gulag escapees battling the cruel and beautiful indifference of nature, we witness not only an incredible story of human endurance, but also the true value of freedom and the price one is willing to pay for it. The performances were nearly perfect - Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, and Jim Sturgess are particularly brilliant. The characters are kept somewhat at a distance; we learn only enough about them as to establish a strong connection and human element, as we watch this band of relative strangers create intense bonds with each other during the ordeal. The dialogue is minimal but effective, giving the film a more realistic feel over-all. Cinematographer Russell Boyd, who has worked with Weir on such exquisite films as Gallipoli and Picnic at Hanging Rock, engulfs us in a stunning palette of landscapes across an epic expanse of Asia, from the snow-driven forest of Siberia to the vast emptiness of the Gobi Desert.
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
I won't wade into the controversy regarding the facts behind the story of this film. Just how true the story is and to whom it actually occurred won't be my focus. I'll write about the filmmaking itself. Peter Weir's entire career has been focused on this singular theme, man at battle with his environment. From the early day of "Picnic at Hanging Rock" to "The Mosquito Coast", "The Truman Show" and "Master and Commander"... the same theme dominates his expression as a filmmaker. "The Way Back" was the perfect vehicle for him to explore this territory once again. He gets to film everything from wintry landscapes of Siberia, the deserts of Mongolia, to the Himalaya in China and even a little of India.

The cinematography is suitably sumptuous but in no way artificially gorgeous. There is bleakness as well as beauty in the images. The story and characters take second place to the forces of nature. This might be the lethal ingredient to many viewers and their potential engagement with this film. The main character Janusz has a back story and a character arc, but the others are fuzzily sketched. The talents of Ed Harris are mostly wasted but I suppose it's better to have him more in the background instead of how Harris typically dominates his movies with his shouting and lapses into anger. I thought Colin Farrell was miscast as a Russian criminal who provides a bit of comic mischief but the young Saoirse Ronan makes an impression as the lost young girl.

The main message of this film apart from the man versus nature dynamic is the idea that it's better to die a free man than live as a prisoner. Imagine having a sentence in one of those Siberian prisons. Making a break for it even with the high chance of death is preferable in my mind to a dull life of drudgery in this far off prison.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Normally we love Steve Carrell, but not in this one. Really disappointing.
Published 5 days ago by Jill Wolfe
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
No good.
Published 13 days ago by June W. Barr
5.0 out of 5 stars Good movie
Enjoyed the movie.
Published 1 month ago by Pam of Upper Marlboro
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
good movie
Published 1 month ago by Duane L. Deckert
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
This was a well acted, interesting movie. It was a bit long, but had no issues viewing.
Published 1 month ago by Amanda M
1.0 out of 5 stars I was terribly disappointed that it did not show more of the ...
I was terribly disappointed that it did not show more of the march to the Gulag, and did not follow the story from the book, which was much more telling than this lousy movie. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Donna R. Hall
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fact-based survival story.
This was quite good. Enjoyed the plot, the acting and the filming locations. Ed Harris was excellent, as usual.
Published 1 month ago by JR-Texas
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely interesting and different from anything else I've seen in...
Definitely interesting and different from anything else I've seen in a while. But after a while you realize you've just been watching people walk for 1 1/2 hours. Kind of slow.
Published 1 month ago by jdg98
4.0 out of 5 stars The Incredible Journey for humans
A story of survival under the roughest of conditions. Good acting by all in the cast. Sometimes, though, it seemed the movie went on for as long as the journey...
Published 1 month ago by sooznthro
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent movie
Published 1 month ago by Clifford A Thompson
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Topic From this Discussion
Inspired by fictional events
I certainly do care, and will delete this movie from my wish list. Thanks for the authoritative debunking of this story.

Frederic W. Burr
Prospect, KY
Mar 22, 2011 by F. W. Burr |  See all 3 posts
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