Film Review: The Way Back

2 01 2011

Hey hey,

Another year, another shift in my bum/downey hair ratio. I’ve been mostly sitting in my running  gear all day, thinking about going for a run, then having a bagel, bacon and scrambled egg brunch, then back to thinking about a run, then being roped into fixing Mrs D’s bike, back to thinking about a run, then eating some cheese on toast. It is at that point dear readers, that you find me; wearing spandex when you’re a runner is kind of permissable, but wearing it when you’re sitting in your living room watching Sister Act on TV is just plain sad.

Yesterday was a far more productive day! Me and Mrs D. went to the cinema to see The Way Back. Directed by Peter Weir, who also directed Master and Commander and The Truman Show, The Way Back is based on a true story of a group of prisoners who escape from a gulag in Siberia. Led by a Polish prisoner Janusz, played by Jim Sturgess, the group must first escape the Siberian wilderness, contend with wild animals for food, evade hostile villagers, cross a Mongolian desert into Tibet and then there’s the small matter of crossing the Himalayas into India. Simple.

There are a lot of positives to be said for this film: there are some solid acting performances by Sturgess, Ed Harris – who plays an American Engineer carrying large burden,  Mark Strong and perhaps more surprisingly, Colin Farrell – who plays a Russian mafia thug who is forced to escape due to his large gambling debts. I’d like to elaborate on Farrell’s performance because I have seen him in some truly shocking films, who can forget S.W.A.T? But I thought he was great in In Brugge and he’s continuing to turn his career around with The Way Back. He is really convincing as an grimey, unpredictable, slightly insane Russian and I always feared he was 5 seconds away from losing his head and eating everyone! Farrell seems to be making a lot more intelligent film choices and I look forward to seeing more from him.

I thought the cinematography was brilliant, vast landscapes looked so beautiful on the big screen and the director really gives an effective depiction of the challenge facing the group. I thought the characters were easy for the audience to warm to and it was a small insight into how brutal the Soviet regime could be.

There were some small drawbacks to the film. I thought the length was an issue as 2 hours had passed and the end didn’t seem to be in sight. I understood that the director wanted to depict the bleakness of the Gobi desert but it dominated such a large part of the story, the end seemed rushed and oversimplified. It’s not the worst criticism in the world, but it stops the movie from being great.

Worth seeing if you are a fan of history, tales of endurance or you don’t mind a patient film.

3/5

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