Average Rating for The Way Back - 3 out of 5
(based on 1 user reviews)
The Way BackJohn Taylor
Some books we read when young make impressions that stay for life. The Long Walk - Slavomir Rawicz' tale of his wartime trek to freedom from a gulag deep in arctic Siberia to Nepal, thousands of miles south - captivated me. So I was delighted when in 2010 Australian Director Peter Weir, known for such successes as 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', 'Witness', 'Dead Poet's Society', 'Master & Commander' and many others, released 'The Way Back', based on Rawicz' story. Here was a potential 'road movie' to match the best and, unlike too many book-to-film efforts, Weir does not disappoint. By his sets and camerawork he captures much of the book's key flavours: the brutality of Stalin's penal system; the desolation that is winter in Siberia; the gargantuan distances facing the escapees; the horrors of crossing the Gobi, and the sheer scale of the barrier that is the Himalayas. His actors - led by the ever-watchable Ed Harris, with Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan in key roles - do their bit, too, playing the parts of exhausted victims of an inhuman system, driven by an almost-animal instinct to escape, keep walking, and survive. Only through the fate of young Polish girl - played by Ronan - who joins them, do these utterly wearied and hardened men recall their inner humanity, finding in it the strength to go on.
No film could portray every detail of this incredible journey. If there is a criticism it would be that the time covering life in- and escape from- the prison camp might have been better spent on the astonishing feat of crossing the Himalayas, which the film rather underplays. Still, this is a visually stunning, and largely faithful re-telling of one of the most astonishing journeys ever undertaken. To anyone who loves 'road movies' this is a must see.
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