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The Way Back [Blu-ray]
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"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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's a great movie, and has caused us to mimic their journey next month through Siberia and the Gobi Desert. Read morePublished 12 days ago by John N. Trainer
Pretty well done but deviates from the book a bit too much (for political correctness).Published 19 days ago by B. Thomas Norris
"A movie "Inspired by..." a book" is quite an ambiguous phrase. The work stands on it's own, but you'll be better inspired by a few readings of the book, and the... Read morePublished 2 months ago by 26.2 Man
This is a very interesting story, but don't believe it ever happened. Great acting by all in cast. Wonderful film locations.Published 2 months ago by Elizabeth Schneider