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
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Renowned historian Anne Applebaum, who won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction for "GULAG: A history"(2003), worked as a historical consultant on this movie. She said about the historical accuracy: "I read the script a couple of times. I know that other people read the script as well. He [director and co-writer Peter Weir] sent it to another historian at Stanford and he sent it to a couple of the survivors whose names I'd given him. And I have to say I thought the result was superb. You know, there may be little licenses you have to take in order to convey to an audience that doesn't know the story, what's going on. Sometimes the guards say things they might not have said because they are explaining things to the audience. But given that he needed to do things like that, I think it's extraordinary. It's amazingly real. You understand exactly how claustrophobic it was. Many of the incidents that you see in the movie come from real stories or come from gulag survivor and writer Varlam Shalamov or come from other gulag writers. I can see them almost exactly. I think it's an extremely well-done film and about as true-to-life as you could make a movie." See more »
The original plan is to escape to Mongolia, but they discover it has a Communist government. But this government had been ruling since 1924. It is unlikely that not one of the escape party would have known this. 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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