The Way Back (2010) Poster

(I) (2010)

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I will never complain about going on a walk ever again!
sparsons-72 January 2011
I went with my friends to see this the other day - we picked whatever film was on soonest at the cinema. The Way Back was on...and we went in. I had no idea what the film was about only that I'd heard that "People walk out of Russia".

This film really had you captivated for the entire journey - and you really connect with the characters within it, so much so you experience their emotions with them - you laugh with them, you are on the verge of tears at moments, and you feel their determination.

The acting was great - there were some familiar faces in the likes of Jim Sturgess (21) and Ed Harris (everything else)...and they do very well in their roles. Colin Farrell finds himself taking a respectable role in a respectable film - and does a very good job at it - and even manages to work a Russian accent, which he pulls off - and he pulls it off well. Surprisingly well, actually! Saoirse Ronan, at 15/16, is incredible in this. Given her youth, she manages to draw in the audience with her character's history and gravitas. The other actors within this, despite them being relatively unknown on the Hollywood stage, join the cast well, and the chemistry is there to make the journey and the true stamina of the group believable.

The cinematography was immense, with shots overlooking parts of Russia, Mongolia, Tibet, and India - just helps you realise the vastness of the journey. Most of the journey is filmed looking closely at the characters, but this is what is crucial to the audience enjoying the story. You can't have 2hrs and 13 mins of beautiful scenery and see the intimate struggles with each of the characters...therefore the director does well to mix the two. The audience can see just what the struggles and difficulties are...but are treated to some amazing shots of the scenery, which make you realise how incredible this journey was. (I even got a map out later and routed the journey they took)

I should expect that this film would receive some Oscar nominations, maybe for cinematography, director, perhaps even best picture, but I would love to see Jim Sturgess having a nomination for his role.
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An epic, exquisitely shot and harrowing adventure about survival and the pursuit of freedom
dvc515922 January 2011
So the book has been proved false. Does this mean that the "true story" isn't true after all? There have been many claims by others that it is fact instead of fiction. Whatever - it doesn't matter, Peter Weir's "The Way Back", this movie about that book, which tells the tale of gulag escapees and their harrowing journey to freedom, is a well-told and inspiring tale than anything else.

All of the actors are terrific in their roles - Jim Sturgess as the de- facto leader of the bunch, showing a more improved and mature side to his acting since "21"; Ed Harris as the gruff American Smith, who is hard-edged and iron-willed until he eventually befriends...; Saiorse Ronan as Irene, the runaway girl who joins them on their quest - Ronan here shows a perfect balance of various emotions while not overdoing it like many child stars her age... she definitely is one of the best young actresses today; Colin Farrell as the violent yet humorous soldier who protects the team from danger in Siberia and provides comic relief when needed - Farrell shows that he can be tough yet likable at the same time without being completely overblown and shows his versatility as an actor; European actors Dragos Bucur, Alexandru Potocean, Sebastian Urzendowsky and Gustaf Skarsgård round off the remaining escapees and they all acted great in their respective and differing roles. The chemistry between all of the actors at parts are great.

Having said that, the film's only flaw is that it sacrificed substantial characterization for realism and visual spectacles. The characters are thinly but not overly so fleshed out, and the interactions between them are short before the next walking shot. But when it comes to realism and believability the film succeeds. I was surprised when I saw National Geographic was one of the co-producers of the film, but I wasn't as soon as I saw how realistic the depictions of survival the characters did in the film. Men will do anything to escape to freedom, and the determination and spirit to survive in a harsh and unforgiving natural world, is what Weir and his script is trying to say, but the walking parts are written in masterful detail that any line of dialog may ruin it, so silence is sometimes golden in these parts. The screenplay also challenges the usual Hollywood clichés that usually are found in this film genre, and it transforms them into better, more realistic and sometimes unsettling situations.

Production-wise, the film is a triumph. The production design is great and makes extremely well use of real locations. The cinematography by Russell Boyd is dazzling, simply marvelous, it is wide, sweeping and epic, with lush scenery of forests, deserts and the snow-peaked Himalayas exquisitely shot throughout. The wide cinematography makes the experience even more harrowing thanks to Lee Smith's fluid and crisp editing and Burkhard Dallwitz's great music score and terrific music timing - Dallwitz and Weir know when and how music/sound can be used in a scene, and that sometimes, silence is crucial to certain moments. Here, Weir uses that silence to terrific and very intense effect, and with his extremely focused direction, manages to being out a very exhilarating and at the same time excruciating (in a good way) experience. So much so that I forgot about the controversy surrounding the "true story" and found myself hugely engrossed in the movie, not wanting it to end.

In short, the film lightly suffers from lack of proper characterization, but is heavy on almost everything else - acting, directing, cinematography, production value and music. If it had proper characterization, it would have been an instant classic and a contender for the Best Picture Oscar. Still, as it stands, "The Way Back" is still an epic adventure; an inspiring, sometimes funny, and often intense and harrowing experience that also proves that Peter Weir is still an ambitious tour-de-force filmmaker.

Overall rating: 77/100
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Epic Survival Tale
nyshrink23 January 2011
This is a film for people who appreciate epic landscapes and survivor stories. It has some engaging characters but not brilliant dialogue or complicated characters. Mostly, it is a visual film, displaying the vulnerability of a few people in a harsh, vast, beautiful landscape. They must depend on each other, and they develop an intimacy based on their shared struggle rather than on deep conversations and emotional revelations, or at least, not until a young girl joins them. Weir seems to be commenting on the yin yang of masculinity/femininity at times in this film. I also liked the subtle underlying commentary on the brutal oppression of the Soviet regime under Stalin.

All of the actors were good; Farrell adds a touch of humor, Sturgess portrays anguish well, and Harris is a good tough old guy--his usual persona. By the way, Manohla Dargis in The New York Times complains that Farrell is too good-looking to be a Russian gangster. What this assessment is based on I can't imagine; doubt Dargis hangs with Russian gangsters.
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kropacek-933-8723462 January 2011
This was a long film but I was unaware of the length because I was so thoroughly engrossed. The scenery and the photography were simply spell binding but more than that, this was a story about the indomitable spirit of people faced with desperate odds told with sensitivity and at times, humour. Others have commented on the quality of the acting, the accuracy of the story and the cinema-photography; I want to comment on a different aspect of the film. We hear and see a great deal about the crimes of the Nazis during this period but very little about the crimes of the Soviet system. This film is not a "dull metaphor" of the Cold War as one reviewer has said If this films sparks a little enquiry amongst its audiences it will have done a great service to the memory of Poles and other eastern Europeans who suffered the double tragedy of Nazi and then Communist occupation. When Nazism was defeated in 1945, half of Europe was just beginning a sentence in Communist bondage that was to last another thirty five years. This aspect of the story is all the more effective because it is told through the eyes of a small group of people and at a personal level. At the end of this film, the entire audience sat still for about fifteen seconds. There was not the usual end of film scrum. People just needed a moment to absorb what they had sen. This was the best film of the year!
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Peter Weir goes from ocean to desert
doubleo16 November 2010
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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Impossible, Incredible, Freedom
jonnyhavey2 February 2011
Six-time Academy Award nominated director Peter Weir ("Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World", "The Truman Show") directed and wrote the adaptive screenplay for "The Way Back" based on the book "The Long Walk: A True Story of a Trek to Freedom" by Slawomir Rawicz, a Polish POW from the Soviet Gulag where the story begins, and on real life accounts of the journey. The film unluckily missed a very well deserved 2010 Oscar birth telling the tale about an unthinkable journey of kinship created between a diverse group of Soviet Gulag escapees. Their journey covers 4,000 miles from Siberia to freedom in India giving meaning to the word incredible. The cinematography is used most majestically by capturing panoramas of the strikingly dangerous yet breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. The splendor of the film goes beyond the wilderness with the selection of a very accurate and diverse cast starring Jim Sturgess ("21"), Ed Harris ("The Rock"), Colin Farrel ("In Bruges"), Saoirse Ronan ("The Lovely Bones"), and Mark Strong ("Sherlock Holmes"). Together they recreate the peril and wonder of the impossible journey on foot that started with the idea of a man named Khabrov (Strong) to break out of the Godforsaken Soviet Gulag in Siberia. A Polish man named Janusz, driven by the fire to get back to his wife, puts the idea into action. An older, wise American known as Mr. Smith (Harris) joins ranks when he hears about Janusz's plans and warns him that Khabarov never had any aspiration to actually leave the place. However, the idea becomes a reality attracting an indebt prisoner named Valka (Farrel) and four other men escaping the Gulag and meeting a young girl named Irena (Ronan) on the path to freedom.

The story is synonymous with walking more than a marathon every day through harsh terrain, uncontrollable elements and lack of food and water for an open-ended amount of time. The gravity of the story is unmatched by any film released this year; told through the art of cinematography and the acting talents of the cast. Both Oscar worthy aspects of the film, however, the cinematography itself is unmatched by any 2010 film. Also, a lot can be said about the all-star cast concerning Jim Sturges, Ed Harris, Colin Farrel, Mark Strong, and Saoirse Ronan and their superb character portrayals; however, there is one other actor that stands out. A man in the group named Zoran played by Dragos Bucar is able to break through the thin layer of dramatic tension in the film with his clever social humor. The comedy he creates does not take away from the story and instead adds to the story allowing the characters to unwind and have a good time.

The outcomes to films within the "jailbreak" genre are inevitably easy to predict, therefore, causing films like "The Way Back" to work hard in order to be original. "The Way Back" does a very good job by differentiating the way it is captured on film through its beautiful cinematography; however, great films such as "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Great Escape" will always be on top of the genre. "The Way Back" isn't far off though with its main shortcoming stemming from the ending relying on a storyline tangent not fully developed (not the montage, the montage is great).

This is the most underrated movie of 2010 with its limited advertising exposure, release and lack of award fulfillment with only one Oscar nomination for Best Make Up (well deserved as the group of survivors' skin is torn apart by the elements). A 4,000-mile true story taking place in the World War II era with excellent cinematography and great acting seems like the ideal candidate for the Oscars. So why was this must see film left in the shadows?
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Peter Weir returns with a masterpiece
richard-196719 December 2010
Anyone familiar with Peter Weir's incredible body of work - particularly his earlier Australian-produced movies - knows that a new Weir movie is an important event indeed. Almost all Weir's too-infrequent movies are at least noteworthy (Witness, Dead Poets Society) if not downright great (Year of Living Dangerously, The Last Wave).

With The Way Back, Weir may have made his greatest film ever. An epic and unrushed (2 1/4 hours) trek from a Soviet Gulag to the green hills of India, this is a beautifully filmed and superbly acted piece. Let it take its time; it is thrilling and appalling, but also beautiful.

The story, which Weir apparently has long wanted to film, is based on the account of a Polish army officer who later moved to England and wrote (with a ghost-writer) the book "The Long Walk," describing the journey he took with seven others. The movie is quite true to the book, right down to the American "Mr. Smith," Ed Harris' character. While the veracity of the story in the book has been questioned, that doesn't interfere with the great film-making.

Harris is fine as always, as is Colin Farrell as a Russian thug, but it is Jim Sturgess, as the Polish leader of the expedition, who has the most bravura performance.

Bravo to the cast, cinematographer, and most of all, Mr. Weir.
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A beautiful but very long walk
Philby-31 March 2011
The story of a small group of people escaping from a Siberian Soviet prison, part of the "Gulag" in wartime and walking 4000 miles to freedom looked a trifle grim in the trailer, but Peter Weir has managed to produce a rather beautiful film out of it, using Bulgaria and Morocco as locales rather than Siberia and the Gobi desert. Only Darjeeling in India plays itself. My only trouble with it is the rather uneven character development. The story lends itself to ensemble playing but we learn little about two or three of the walkers. In the case of the lead character Janusz (Jim Sturgess) who is the source of the story this is explicable as we are seeing the others though his eyes, but it has to be said that both "Mr Smith" (the excellent Ed Harris) and the Girl (Saiorse Ronan) leave a lasting impression.

I know there is some doubt as to the authenticity of the story, taken from a 1955 book by Slavimir Rawicz a former Polish army officer, and indeed what the group are supposed to have done looks impossible but that's not a problem, because the relationships ring true. It is remarkable how an almost random collection of individuals, including one with a very unsavoury past, can, driven by sheer necessity, wind up functioning as a team. Partly this is due to the leader actually having some navigational knowledge and therefore inspiring confidence in the others. Mr Smith remarks early on that the Janusz has a serious weakness; he is kind, but when the chips are down we see that even the hard-bitten Mr Smith is capable of compassion.

Strangely enough, after the initial scenes in the prison camp, and the escape, there is not a lot of drama. The group encounter very few people on their travels and those they do meet take little interest in them (perhaps they had not heard about the bounty for escapees). Obtaining food and water is obviously a big issue, so mind out for the messy hunting scenes. I was astounded at how well their footwear stood up to the punishment; my hiking boots are not good for 400 miles let alone 4000. Actually they must have wandered around a bit - the northern end of Lake Baikal and Lhasa in Tibet are about 1800 miles apart, though the prison camp was somewhere north of the lake. It's also not clear how long the walk took, but at times it seemed like years. Weir's great achievement is to keep us watching a very drawn out tale. Personally I think I would have died of boredom if I had been in this particular walk, if starvation hadn't got me first.
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A Soviet Schindler's List
zvg-117 April 2011
This film tells two stories. The literal one involves a group of Gulag escapees that cross the whole Eurasian continent in order to escape from Russian oppression.

The scenery is amazing, the acting is solid, but, as it has already been noted in other reviews, the action isn't driven by dialogue. At first glance it could seem that some of the characters lack depth, it could seem that the supporting characters lack complexity and history that is so needed for emotional attachment.

But to achieve full understanding of the film, some knowledge of the history of Europe is mandatory. When the metaphor provided by the literal storyline is understood, the characters light up in a completely different light. Suddenly the unrealistically long and hazardous trip takes the revealing shape of the 50-year-long European genocide, repressions, suffering and struggle for independence; a struggle that has been wrongfully forgotten by many in the West.

Thank you for telling our story.
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When Irish actors go all Polski
ecstatic-tickle2 January 2011
Peter Weir's first film in seven years is another exercise in sturdy direction with strong social themes running through it - recalling many of his previous works in style and content. It follows a group of escaped prisoners from a Siberian gulag in 1940 as they brave the treacherous wilderness of Asia for freedom from the Soviet regime. It's tough viewing for the most part but there is a surprising amount of comic relief along the way, provided chiefly by Colin Farrell's salty character. The group scavenge for food, even fighting off wolves for the carcass of an animal at one point - but the constant bickering and relentless doom and gloom does begin to wear. The film picks up however once Saoirse Ronan enters the picture and her youthful feminine presence brings an interesting dynamic. Emoting with a flawless Polish accent (almost like a mini-Streep) her character is one of the more compelling and layered and gives this emerging young actress a chance to display her skills. The cinematography is serviceable but hardly spectacular - capturing a harsh, arid landscape as opposed to Malick-like celebration of nature.

As the film wears on, the struggle to survive intensifies, particular when they reach the Ghobi desert - the scenes are very well done but viewing becomes quite grueling. Harris bring a certain integrity to his role in a rather unshowy performance with not much character introspection (I can see why his Oscar buzz has disappeared). In fact character development across the board is quite lacking, and watching the plot unfold, with the knowledge of the outcome of the story already provided in the opening titles - the narrative becomes quite arbitrary and the story doesn't always sustain interest. The final leg of the journey through the Himalayas almost seems rushed compared to the bloated second act. Still, it's a very well-made film with good acting and visuals - just don't expect to be inspired.
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Solid story that looks great but is told with far too much reverence and respect – to the point of being hard to engage with emotionally
bob the moo24 July 2011
A group of men break free from the security and barbed wire fence of a Siberian gulag in search of freedom, however the guards are very small beer to the real prison – the ravages of nature itself and the great distance which must be crossed before they can be truly free.

Given that the focus of the film appeared to be one of endurance in the face of great suffering, this film is a bit of a hard sell for the casual viewer looking for something to watch of an evening; certainly for me this was part of the reason it took me a minute to decide to watch it. While it was an OK film, I'm not entirely sure if it was worth the two hours plus that it took to watch because it gives the viewer very little to engage with in doing so. The story is impressive in terms of the toll and also the sacrifice involved and accordingly the film wears it very seriously indeed. Hollywood excess is avoided and any crass sentimentality is absent, both of which I appreciated being omitted and restrained, and Weir documents the journey with a solemn air throughout. The first problem is that it feels like you're in a church – bowed with reverence witnessing things of importance but not really engaging with them because you're not really worthy. This feeling of worthiness really kept me at arms' length from the characters and the challenge they faced, to the point where it felt a little indifferent towards any specific one of them – not in a cruel way, but the feat appears to have been the focus rather than the people.

This is still able to make an interesting film though, because the feat is quite a thing and, as I said, the film is very careful to do it justice and not sentimentalise or trivialise it. This is my second problem with it – it probably overdoes it in this regard considering that so much of the story is questionable. I try not to let "facts" get in the way of enjoying a good movie because as a Brit I am used to seeing Hollywood twist history to make it more sellable to the mid-West etc. Thing is though, it is hard to accept that this is a good story when the film emphasises that it is true and also treats it with such reverence and respect for fear of getting it "wrong". Quite how one can get it "wrong" when so much of it is in doubt is anyone's guess, but the film takes this route and it hurts it in the process. It still makes for a very sturdy film but there without caring about the characters or really feeling in their trial, it didn't do a terrible lot else for me and I was surprised by how much of it I was just able to watch with very little involvement other than my eyes and ears.

One thing the film does do really well though is the delivery (visually speaking of course). The locations are immense and are put on the screen by director Peter Weir and cinematographer Russell Boyd in such a way that captures not only their natural beauty but also the sheer, uncompromising size of the places. It looks great throughout and I was surprised when I looked it up to find that Boyd didn't even merit an Oscar nomination for his work here (although it is an award category that has yet to give one to Roger Deakins so no surprise). It perhaps contributions to the "look at this epic story" worthiness that the film has, but in the case of the looks, it is worth it.

The cast also match the worthy tone and don't have a lot of time for character in between portraying hardship and perseverance. Sturgess struggles to really make an impression but he is OK in a central role. He is fortunate though to have Harris, Strong and Farrell with him, because they both bring presence and charisma in a way that looks easy. The rest of the group are good as well, but they also struggle to make an impression in all the worthiness.

The Way Back is an interesting film that looks great, but it is also overly worthy and serious to a point that it is hard to really engage with it because it is hard to reach the characters on the pedestal that Weir puts them on.
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Sorry, I didn't cry
jee-devraj9 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Way Back is the story of a a group of prisoners breaking out of a siberian Gulag and walking across Siberia, Mongolia, China and Tibet, an epic journey of 4000 km to reach freedom in India. Its one of those movies you don't want to miss out on seeing. The cast is wonderful, and the cinematography is breathtaking. Exotic and grandiose shooting locations contrast nicely with the all-too human struggle for survival of the characters.

There are no specific flaws in this movie that you can point out and say,"There! Thats where they screwed up". No, but the movie somehow leaves you unsatisfied in the end. Its not about what the movie did wrong, but there were so many places where it missed out, where it could have transcended the gap between Good and Fantastic. For one, the characters seemed to mould into one another, there wasn't much to tell them apart, you could have easily switched the back-stories of any two characters and it wouldn't have made a difference. As such, there was no emotional bond you form with any of them, deaths hardly matter to the audience. There have been movies where a character dying would break the heart of the viewer, but here it barely registers.

Also, it hardly brings out the true nature of suffering. Apart from the extensive make-up and the occasional staggering-and-falling, there is not much of an indication of the physical toll and mental trauma that a person would go through in such a circumstance. As such, when they do finally make it to their destination, the happiness that the viewer feels is short-lived and minor.

A Way Back reads more like a documentary. It doesn't manage to pull off the human side of it. One movie which had so much potential, I would be glad if there's a remake, by a better director and cast.
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What an incredible story
juneebuggy26 January 2015
I mean these men escaped a Russian gulag and WALKED 4,000 miles from Siberia to India, come on...

So this movie is based on the 1959 memoir "The Long Walk" (of which there is some debate over its validity). Regardless I really enjoyed it, the story is incredible and I'd been looking foreword to seeing what they would do in the movie version. Throw in a top notch cast as our Siberian gulag escapees (Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess) and this should have been fantastic. All I can say there is maybe my expectations were too high because honestly I came away a little disappointed, actually preferring the book.

The movie itself was very long and kind of jumped around. Granted they had a lot of material to cover as our men escape under cover of a snowstorm and undertake a treacherous journey across thousands of miles of hostile terrain. They face freezing nights, lack of food and water, injuries, mosquitoes, an endless desert, the Himalayas, and moral questions of when to leave someone behind.

The cinematography is beautiful, the scenery breathtaking and everyone does a great job. Ed Harris is excellent as the American Mr. Smith (love him) and Colin Ferrell (love him a bit more) was awesome as a tattooed gang-style prisoner, with an amazing Russian accent. As a point of interest his character is not in the book. The scenes in the blizzard and the Gobi desert stand out to me and are brutal but well done. 08.11
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Grim, But Beautiful
ccthemovieman-14 May 2011
Having read several books about escapes from Siberia, I was interested in seeing one of them put on screen. I say this because the film is a bit slow in a number of parts so it helps to have a great interest in the subject matter. The film isn't boring - at least, to me - but I can see some people seeing it that way, especially if you're used to today's action movies.

The scenery is magnificent and some of the shots by director Peter Weir are jaw-dropping. This is Weir's first film since the 2003 "Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World." The man does quality work.

Ed Harris one of the few, if not only, actors in here whose English you can clearly understand, so it's a good idea to play this DVD with subtitles. You get a fair of amount of subtitles with the Russian characters, anyway, but none are distracting from the scenery or story. The characters and acting in here are good, too.

If this subject matter interests you, find the book, "As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me," about a one-man escape from a Siberian Labor Camp following WWII.
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Not really based on a true story
david-sarkies13 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Now the question that is raised regarding this film is 'is it true?' There are a lot of suggestions that it is not, and Weir is deliberately vague at the beginning where he says that he 'dedicates this film' to three men who reportedly appeared out of the Himalayas in 1945. He does not suggest that this film is based upon of true story, though it is based upon a book by a Pole named Slawomir Rawicz, who alleges that he escape from a Soviet Gulag in Siberia during a blizzard and travelled over 6000 km to freedom. However, documentary evidence suggests that this did not happen, but rather that he was freed and sent to Iran. Another story is that Rawicz stole the idea from another Pole who made that claim, and further, there is a suggestion that the British in India debriefed a trio who had claimed that they had walked from Siberia.

The question is, is it possible? Well, my suggestion would be that it is, though the journey is fraught with dangers. Not only does one have to evade the Soviet army (and the locals, as any escaped prisoners have a bounty on their head) but they would have had to cross the Gobi desert and then the Himalayas. Of the seven that escaped from the camp, only four of them survived, and one departed in Tibet when he decided to return to the United States through China. However, I would suggest that the most difficult and gruelling part of the journey would have been across the Gobi Desert, and the film is very clear about that.

I did think that this was a good film, despite the authenticity of the story being doubtful. Peter Weir does make very good films, and this is no exception. However it is very long, though that is to be expected of such a film like this. One in a way would like to have followed their course on a map, and I am suspicious that not only a directly southern route would have got them to Tibet (it wouldn't have) or that once they had crossed the Gobi desert they would have come to the Great Wall of China. I suspect the Great Wall, or at least the section they encountered, was much farther to the east than where they would have been.

I could say that this movie is all about human endurance and survival, and while it is, it is not necessarily the case. The main character (whom Weir deliberately did not name Rawicz) was sentenced to the Gulags on a trumped up charges based on evidence that was tortured out of his wife. However he does not hold a grudge against his wife and he one desire is to return to her so that he may forgive her. This is what motivates him, and drives him on, however, as we know, it was going to be another fifty odd years before the wall comes down enabling him to return to his wife.
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Another great film by Peter Weir.
phuthuytinhyeu7115 November 2015
Peter Weir is true poet of cinema. The poetic is inside most of his works, of many different genre, crime (Witness), sci-fi (The Truman Show), horror (Picnic at Hanging Rock), and the history-adventure (The Way Back).

The Way Back is a rare piece of work. It give me strength to never give up against everything. Landscapes of film are very stunning, beautiful and harsh but full of poetry.

I love the cast of this film, too. Ed Harris, Mark Strong, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan, and specially, Colin Farrell are fabulous acting.

The latest film of Peter Weir is another great film!! A must-see !!
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Panther82616 July 2011
The plot is too lean, the dialog is dry and the film editing is horrible, we often see one scene jumps to another without much explanations or transitions. There are few to none in characters background and development. All the actors in this film can be replaced by someone else and the quality of the film would still be the same. The lead actor, whatever his name is, does not have enough charisma to pull it off.

In my opinion, it's definitely not one of the worst films I've seen, but it certainly does not contain any interests for me to be attached to. Overall, this film is forgettable.

I give it a 5 and I'm being generous. And what's up with all the 10s, 9s and 8s??? Are you people serious??
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Dull , Dull , Dull.
valleyjohn22 June 2011
The way back had all the ingredients to be one of those films that amazes and moves you. A story about a group of people who are fighting for survival against all the odds , usually the kind of film i really like but for some reason this left me as cold as the Himalayas they were crossing.

I should have like this film . It has some good actors in it such as Jim Sturgess , Colin Farrell and Ed Harris but even they couldn't improve on what was ultimately a bad piece of direction.

Peter Weir should know better. He has made some good films in the past like , Master and Commander and Dead Poets Society but for some reason , before this film , he took a 6 year break from directing and it shows.

The scenes look like they were thrown together . without any thought and the characters were so dull you really didn't care what happened to them Why didn't we see any locals trying to take advantage of the rewards for the convicts ? It was hinted that would be the case but it didn't happen.

The Way Back is not terrible it's just dull and that's not what you want when you are watching a film that is 2 hours and 12 minutes long.
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The Journey Away from Communism
shattenjager77723 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Note: There probably won't be any spoilers, but I'm afraid to submit a review without clicking the box. I will mark any that come up.

Peter Weir is one of the great directors in recent history, having directed three absolute masterpieces ("Dead Poets Society" (USA 1989), "The Truman Show" (USA 1998), and "Gallipoli" (Australia 1981)) and a decent number of good films alongside them. His greatest strengths as a director have been his incredible facility with leading actors that has often lead to excellent performances from surprising performers and his ability to create a backdrop in seemingly all scenes that is realistic enough to accept and yet so perfectly controlled that it paints the picture for his camera. Both of those skills are on display in "The Way Back." The film's story, while dull-sounding in the abstract, is an interesting metaphor for many countries' (though Poland is the obvious example here) long journey away from authoritarian Communism toward individual freedom. *Spoilers* We see how Communism tore down the old religions and yet rather than its return, a new, western religion is attempting to take its place. We see how the definition of "freedom" becomes so weak that the characters consider the ability to die outside prison walls "freedom" in Siberia. We see how wandering through the tightly-controlled, dangerous, cold, ruthless terrain of one type of authoritarianism in Russia shares similarities with the hot, wild, dangerous, dry terrain of another in Mongolia. We see how it's a nearly-impossible final trek through dangerous mountains of doubt, asking for help repeatedly along the way that finally brings our heroes to the lush greens of freedom. *Spoilers Over* The acting is universally excellent, highlighted by Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, and Colin Farrell. Harris has the only dynamic character, one who begins knowing only too well the value of hiding his emotions and slowly learns that he no longer needs his mask. His performance is nothing short of amazing. Sturgess, while not playing a very dynamic part, still has plenty to sink his teeth into and hits every right note. Farrell is a scene-stealer as a vicious-but-not-stupid true criminal who doesn't know how to operate free and knows it.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the film is the score. Burkhard von Dallwitz's score in this film is one of the best I've ever heard, with an impressive combination of variety and cohesiveness and absolutely pitch-perfect emotionality for every moment.

Weir, as is his wont in later years, keeps the editing and camera work minimal. We have still camera shots with relatively little cutting throughout the film, which allows us to remain connected with the characters as they journey. There are notable exceptions in the beautiful fly-by shots of the environs that remind us just how far these men are going and the close, intense, steaming-but-still-freezing, loud environment of the mine that is shot with quicker cuts, different colors, and more close-ups. His work is stunning.

There are some problems with the film. The third act is rushed and drives home the metaphor so obviously that it's almost laughable. The journey through Siberia is a bit repetitive. But those are relatively minor flaws in a beautiful film. Peter Weir remains a genius.
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You almost share in their determined journey freedom!
seamus-greene28 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This film reveals the utter horror of a Siberian gulag and follows the exploits of a group of prisoners who escape. Led by a former Polish officer, they journey across snow covered Siberian forests, Mongolian deserts, Tibetan hills before trekking over the Himalayas to reach India and freedom. The cinematography is quite spectacular, containing vista of a variety of landscapes.

One is readily absorber by the determined efforts of the group to survive the many hardships they encounter. This film holds your attention throughout, and leaves you with a sense of appreciation for the freedom we have, particularly so in the final minutes of this remarkable film.
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A Masterpiece. Grueling but Rewarding for the Adult Viewer.
Danusha_Goska23 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"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. His potentially fatal flaw, in this environment, is kindness. Jim Sturgess' Janusz is one of the best aspects of the film. In real life, true leaders usually are not like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Janusz grew up in the woods, and knows how to jerry-rig a compass to point his group south, and a mask to survive blizzards. In the world of Gulag escapees, that's enough to make him the big man. Indeed, Valka, (Colin Farrell), a very tough gangster, declares, or diagnoses, that Janusz is the leader, the man whom the other escapees must obey, both for their own individual benefit and the benefit of group survival.

Prison escapees traveling thousands of miles of the Eurasian landmass with minimal gear face multiple dangers, from malnutrition-caused blindness to mosquitoes to snakes to dehydration. Some succumb, and die en route. You can't help but bet the same horrible game of chance that Valka proposes: who will die next? And will his meat be tender – that is, will we resort to cannibalism? A crew member falls. Surviving companions, in stunning testimony to their own humanity, take the time, burn the calories, devote the effort, to fashioning makeshift graves, and funerals. And then they march on.

What looks very beautiful on a calendar – an unspoiled mountain forest of snow-dusted evergreens – is actually all but an execution chamber for a hungry fugitive with no tools and only rags for shoes. The last thing a good man sees after making the simple mistake of walking too far with a limited light source will not be a breathtaking natural vista but a comforting, wrenching, hallucination of home.

Weir's best choice as a filmmaker here was simply to get out of the story's way. "The Way Back" does not want to be your best friend. Weir makes no attempt to cozy up to the viewer, to sweeten the story with phony warmth or touching crescendos. Weir makes no attempt to juice the action with cinematic steroids. For much of the film, the viewer is watching one grueling step after another.

Guess what? This is what it's like to suffer for a goal, this is what it's like to be crushed, this is what it's like, purely by chance – not because you are a better person or because God likes you more – to survive. You go on, hour after hour after seemingly pointless hour toward your questionable, impossible objective. This film is an endurance test. It will separate the men from the boys. Folks who think a movie about fantasy, sexy ballerinas is "great" filmmaking, and who think that temporarily losing their cell phone service is a human rights violation, will probably walk right out of "The Way Back." Characterizations come slowly and are not forced. We discover, in a ruined monastery, that one character had been a priest. We discover that a girl can get taciturn men to talk. Characters speak of food, as hungry people do. "Add more salt!" to a fantasy meal, one begs. Valka makes a decision that caused this viewer to cry. I never thought the film could make me care about this murderous thug, but it did. There is inevitable, and surprising, laughter, also not forced, but integral to the circumstances.

There are moments of high drama. The men must fight wolves. Weir could have lavished lengthy close-ups on those sharp teeth, snarling snouts and prickly pelts. He doesn't. The wolves are on screen only long enough to establish what they are and what they are up to. And then the next deadly and impossible challenge rolls down the shoot at the viewer, just as it did for those who took this long walk, and the millions of other humans like them, who have survived life and death challenges under impossible conditions. "The Way Back" is, like those poignant grave-markers the marchers make en route, testimony to those who have lived anonymous and agonizing lives in this pitiless world. If you don't think about the big questions while watching this film, and if you're not grateful to the film for that, you don't deserve it.
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Epic, but far from engrossing
ihrtfilms30 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As war begins to rage in Europe and Poland is split between Germany and Russia, a young Polish man finds himself in a Gulag in Siberia in squalid conditions among a motley group of men from various backgrounds. Conditions are horrific, made worse by the harsh winter weather and life is made even worse if you are chosen to work in the mines. One inmate declares he knows a gap in the fence and a group of inmates decide under the cover of a winter storm to make a run for it. They manage to get away, far into the surrounding forest as the blizzard rages around them. But being free of the Gulag doesn't mean total freedom, not only do they have to fight the elements, but there are wolves as well a bounty given to locals if they capture runaways and somehow of course they have to get out of Russia.

The men make their way south, with the idea of getting to China. It's a long way, through the frozen lands of Siberia and along the way one of them succumbs to the elements. Further south, they pick up a young woman, another runaway Pole and on reaching Mongolia they discover that Communism has taken hold there, meaning safety is not guaranteed, leaving them the only option to cross the Gobi desert and make their way to Tibet and over to India.

This film by Peter Weir is based on the 'true story' - although that's been debunked- and it's an epic tale. The journey is huge, yet somehow for most of the group they will endure anything to survive and get back to those they love. It should be an engrossing story, but it really doesn't manage to maintain interest. For starters this mammoth trek feels like a mammoth (cinema) trek, which goes on far too long; I found myself not wanting them to reach safety for themselves, but for me as I couldn't wait for the film to end. Also, it's difficult to relate to these people, some are criminals, some are viewed as criminals by others, but we rarely get to know more about these people other than a few snippets gathered (conveniently) by the woman. Because of this it's difficult to find an emotional connection to these people who by all accounts are going through a huge life altering journey.

It's a shame as it really should be an engrossing story, but it all feels very formulaic in it's presentation and while performances are okay, with actors playing various nationalities and there's an abundance of accents (and surprisingly all the characters speak fluent English!), the film just drags towards the end and it's main redeeming feature is the glorious variety of landscapes that fill the screen.

More of my reviews at my site
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"It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees"
AlexM775 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Every nation tells stories with its emotional tone. Americans love happy endings, Russian mentality makes us think about the gloomy "eternal", British stories are dry and melancholic. In this movie we see Polish history. The most vivid expressions of "Polish history" can be found at the Henryk Sienkiewicz's stories. Their striking contrast - the complete lack of causal/effect relationships and the construction of stories in the format of "chain of miraculous events". It is very important that this is not a chain of circumstances, exactly the chain of miracles. A kind of Polish religiosity does not give them opportunity to tell stories without the full intervention of God. "The Way Home" - a typical Polish work. There is no reason, there are only evil and satanic effects. Endless gratuitous evil consequences. Someone was arrested for being a good actor, another - for photographing the Kremlin. Movie with the maximum gain of hysterical expressionism. This even has some logic... But further becomes more frightening. The camp somewhere in Yakutia is full of Poles. No Russians there. Only criminals. In addition there are also the Poles, Lithuanians, and even an American of Finnish descent. All this confusion should not be confusing. Further - better. They walk on foot very, very far away. Here we can indulge in a long discussion on the subject of how long they walked, with no falls, how they didn't inadvertently turn to Kazakhstan, how they passed 4 borders. These little things are not important in this history... I repeat - a chain of divine miracles. On the way, in the taiga (Russian forest ;), Polish expedition meets (a miracle!) Polish girl who followed them a couple of days. From where she was walking and with what point - Polish viewers should not worry. And the further plot is in the same format. Dying from cold wind and hunger, without stealing food (they believe it is wrong and immoral), suffer moral questions, etc. There is no sense to destroy this movie. It is itself pathetic as idle charge. Film joked at itself, making the leading and the most interesting character Valka-Farrell, the Russian criminal, who, by an order livelier, becomes more believable and risky of all these stereotyped characters, for whom the greatest cynicism - is not to give his bread and dying itself to survive. How much idiocy in this movie because of religious fanaticism...

The plot of this film. Briefly. A handful of foreign political prisoners, grinded by millstones of the GULAG, because "Stalin hates foreigners," diluted by one Soviet felon, escapes from pokey. Escaped easily and naturally, under the noses of guards, through meter gap in the barbed wire (probably because there was not enough wood for the camp's (located in the deep wood) fence). Anyway, the writers just did not have time to work on this piece of the script, they were too busy with the anti-Soviet propaganda. However, everyone already has habit for such films, and I wasn't ready for political subtext, so been waiting for the development of the main plot. But the story was not there. At all.

A bunch of motley prisoners of different nationalities, communicating in some way in one language goes, goes and goes to the South... Simple as it is, and all want to eat... Sometimes, they want to drink. No plot, no disputes and disagreements or even no live or "animal" communication (in such conditions and with such contingent!). The problem can't be solved even by a Russian prisoner Valentin (played brilliantly by Colin Farrell, BTW), at the same time being the most appropriate, sober, vibrant, cynical and most paradoxical, the most honest person of all this company. In a short, a film about the tourists who ran out of sausages. Apparently realizing the absurdity and boredom of such a scenario, the authors in a quickly way made a small correction (to create suspense and sentimental tears), consisting in a new fugitive - girl Irene, Polish orphan, whose appearance in the middle of the movie was just as absurd as the film itself. So, going together, they moved and moved on.

But where they were going - is a special dialog...Bad mark for your geography, gentlemen authors! Walking to the South along the shore of Lake Baikal, which extends to the South-West! Then, stubbornly continuing to go to the South, suddenly turn up in Gobi Desert, located far to the east (logically they should have hit the western parts of Mongolia, where rolling hills, numerous lakes, and at least one major river). How the characters could die of thirst all the way long on the open spaces of the Mongolian, immediately after crossing the border, despite the fact that the whole northern part of the country (in the west, and in the east) is covered by numerous rivers?.. It's amazing that our characters are dying from the heat both at day and night, the authors apparently don't know how cold it gets in Mongolia at night. What's next? And then, after passing the Gobi Desert, and continuing to go to the South (even turning once to the east direction), lucky fugitives are in the West, in Tibet! In Lhasa. Did they then cross the Himalayas and they stomping to the south, remained unknown, but I would not be surprised and about this. It is also strange that all this motley crowd, educated, well-rounded cultured and with inconceivable outlook, was not aware of the fact that Mongolia, for more than 15 years (from the 1924th) is ruled by communists. But about Japanese-Chinese War, which began in the 37th, they know. Awesome ... I give 0 points for a ridiculous movie, and 5 for Valka. Let him be the most negative character, but at the same time, the most adequate.
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Wow... was not expecting this!
adamkinghorn8128 April 2011
I know what you're thinking... the scene has been set up before so many times before in film history. A group of men held captive in a POW camp during World War 2... A covert plot amongst them to break out...Well, normally I would agree with you if I hadn't have just set through what is now my favourite movie of 2011 so far.I hadn't heard a lot about this film but I decided to see it seeing as Ed Harris is one of my favourite actors. The film is very well acted on all parts, and most impressively in my opinion the best actor nod would go to Colin Farrell! The film is a power house of emotion about a journey to freedom, and the trails and tribulations these brave men struggle through. The film is very well paced and the cinematography is simply break taking. I was also taken back by the fact that this film was inspired by a true story, and believe you me when the end credits role you will understand why they had to make this story into a movie.

I love it when a film surprises me on all fronts and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a decent way to spend 2 hours in the cinema this weekend. All in all I would rate this movie 9.5 out of 10 and look forward to seeing it again on blue ray
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robbie-mcmahon25616 April 2011
This film is awesome, the script on Stalin's regime and how they fought for survival is in doubt the biggest struggle. The scenery that was shot in this film was amazing. Peter Weir as the director is brilliant as he has brought this script and the theme and put it together really well. Colin Farrell and Ed Harris play both their parts really well as 2 of the best actors of our generation even Saoirse Ronan who I haven't seen before in film played a fantastic part as a young actress. The script brought the facts as how they should be portrayed well in the motion picture. This film is well worth watching, the courage that these strangers had is unbelievable and I think Peter weir shows in the direction how far we are able to achieve determination. The ending was brilliant it shows a fantastic outcome,a very fulfilling experience.
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