Wednesday 21 December 2022

Movie Review: The Way Back (2010)

Genre: Survival Drama
Director: Peter Weir
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, and Colin Farrell
Running Time: 133 minutes

Synopsis: During World War Two, Polish soldier Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is captured by the Soviets and dispatched to a Siberian prison. He meets a mix of political and criminal convicts including grizzled American Mr. Smith (Ed Harris) and scrappy thief Valka (Colin Farrell). Along with other prisoners they escape during a brutal snow storm, heading towards Mongolia. The mysterious Irena (Saoirse Ronan) joins the escapees en route, but the longer-than-expected trek to freedom will be tough to survive.

What Works Well: Inspired by actual events, this is a grim and determined battle for survival, first against the inhumanity of prison conditions, then trudging through an inhospitable natural environment fluctuating from extreme cold to insufferable heat. The long trip on foot is satisfyingly exhausting to watch, and director Peter Weir teases out character traits and the survivors' strengthening bonds. Russell Boyd's cinematography captures nature's dangerous grandeur.

What Doesn't Work As Well: With a limited - and familiar - thematic ambition of the human spirit yearning to live free or die trying, it's difficult to care too much about any of the characters. The less prominent members of the escape party are predictably lined up to expire. Janusz's flashbacks and hallucinations are flimsy, and the running time need not have competed with the actual duration of the journey.

Conclusion: A sturdy but emotionally parched hazard course navigation adventure.

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