Monday, 30 May 2016

The Way Back (2010)

September 1939: the Soviet Union has occupied half of Poland.  Suspected opponents of Stalin's regime, such as a young military officer named Janusz, are swept up and sent to the gulags in Siberia.  There he finds himself in a prison which - as the camp commander reminds them - does not stop merely with guards, guns and dogs, but extends to the hundreds of miles of wilderness that surrounds them.

Janusz has no intention of remaining in the gulag, however.  Faced with the choice of being worked like a slave or dying in an escape attempt, he chooses the latter.  Of course, the decision is probably made easier when he finds himself assigned to work that will almost certainly kill him within a few months in any case.

In the company of half a dozen others - most political prisoners like himself, but one a hardened criminal - he makes his escape and begins what is intended to be a one-thousand kilometre trek to freedom in Mongolia.

This is a Peter Weir film: one of only two features he has directed this century.  I'm not sure what attracted him to this project in particular, but whatever it was, I don't think the film conveys it to the audience - or at least not to me.  It's not that the movie isn't well shot and well acted: the scenery is great and the cast is strong.  I just rarely felt all that emotionally invested in the events on screen.  I kept mentally comparing it to other "survival" films like Flight of the Phoenix (either version) and feeling like it came up a little short.

If you're a big Peter Weir fan you should probably check this out as one of the few examples of his recent work.  Outside of that though, I don't see why I would recommend this ahead of any other survival adventure story.

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