The Way Back Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 7, 2013
four stars
Super Reviewer
½ July 8, 2013
Peter Weir is a fine filmmaker and he has crafted some truly terrific films. His work is truly engaging. He always manages to assemble great casts that feature prominently in his films. This is a strong effort with a great story and terrific talent involved. I much preferred this film over Master & Commander and it is a movie that is one of the finer directorial efforts from Weir. The cast make the material work well enough from start to finish. Based on true events, this film is a standout tale of survival in the harshest of times and can make it through with perseverance and determination. This is a great film from the first moment and if you love these types of movies, then give it a shot, you'll surely enjoy it. The Way Back is one of Peter Weir's strongest efforts and it is a movie that delivers some genuine tension and excitement. All of the cast members bring something unique to the screen, but it is Weir's eye to create a story worth telling that sets this picture apart from others in his filmography. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and if you love a good survival story, then this is the film to watch. Peter Weir has made some fine movies in the past, but The Way Back is a movie that is a brilliant return to form to what he used to do and he delivers something truly memorable and almost flawless in terms of storytelling. Weir is a fine filmmaker and with this film he proves that once again. With a great script and cast, Peter Weir was able to craft a movie that is thrilling from start to finish.
Super Reviewer
½ December 31, 2010
Very well done. No special effects. No over the top action. Just a good story about desperation, and determination. A true story? Not sure, but inspiring just the same. Ed Harris is wonderful, as usual. Has he ever made a bad film? Not that I've seen...
Super Reviewer
½ June 18, 2012
A group of refugees walk from Siberia to India.
If only the beginning title cards didn't give away the end of the film, I might have thought it more suspenseful and compelling. As it is, I could guess the ending easily, and the film lost its luster for me. Additionally, it is affected by Lord of the Rings syndrome: the mistaken belief that beautiful shots of people walking makes for compelling cinema. Peter Weir, whose films all include the plights of common people against repressive politics, should have taken some notes from Danny Boyle, whose 127 Hours made a guy stuck under a rock more compelling than this peripatetic film.
But if you look at a map and trace the incredible distance these people traveled, you can understand why the story is so incredible. The characters are certainly courageous and admirable, and the performances by the cast - even by the insufferable Colin Farrell - are all up to par.
Overall, it's a compelling idea with compelling characters, but the film lacks a stylistic flair to keep it interesting.
Super Reviewer
December 2, 2010
Great film. Well done...
Super Reviewer
½ January 7, 2011
Just, incredible.
Super Reviewer
½ January 21, 2011
The most incredible story of walking ever told. Makes the LOTR's seem like a stroll in the park. I mean those guys were well rested, had plenty of supplies, maps, a Wizard, Elven healing, magic items and were fictional.

These guys escaped from a Russian concentration camp, after a year of grueling labor, with just a little bit of bread (regular, not the magically filling lembas variety), a knife and an general assumption of where they might be, and how they might get there. That and these guys actually did this.

They walked 4000 miles starting in one of the remotest place in Siberia and finished their journey by crossing the Himalaya's, on foot. I'm never complaining about walking anywhere ever again.

Oh and before you get all angry panda that I spoiled the ending, they tell you that some people escaped in the opening seconds of the movie. They just don't tell you who survives (and neither will I).
Super Reviewer
December 1, 2010
Ever since I first heard about this movie, I became very interested, and really wanted to see it. I had some very high expectations. Unfortunately my expectations were not totally met, and this film isn't quite as amazing as I hoped it would be, but damn, it's still really good, and some impressive filmmaking.

The story is alleged to be based on real events, but this has been disputed, and it has been revelaed that the film's events are essentially fiction. Even though it sucks that this isn't really true, it's still a really compelling story, which is that of a group who escape a Siberian gulag prison camp in 1940 and make their way (by foot) all the way to India 4,00 mailes away, as they see it as the best place to escape to (though not initially so).

In essence, this is just a classic survival story that pushes the man versus nature trope to the max. These characters go through all sorts of hell across all kinds of unforgiving terrain. The film is a little underwhelming in the sense that it's a little emotionally vacant, the characters aren't developed as much as they could be, and there's no real deep conflict at hand besides survivng the elements. While that's all a little disappointing considering that it means the film is 133 minutes (with almost all of it being the characters walking), it's extremely well done, and it looks gorgeous.

Technically speaking, this is a very superb film. The cinematography is top notch, and Weir and his DP know where to set the lens and frma stuff just right. The makeup effects are also quite excellent, showing in detail the effects of sunstroke, extreme dehydration, hordes of mosquitos, and, let's not forget, the effects of freezing cold. Even though I did mention the lack of real conflict, the performances of the multicultural cast (playing multicultural characters) are all pretty good. Sturgess and Harris were good, but my favorites were the two performers representing Ireland: Ronan and Farrell.

Since this is a survival story, one thing I liked and appreciated were some of the cool details about how the characters survived, such as the cool snow masks they make out of bark, and their sheer will to plow on despite increasingly ragged clothing.

This film marked the end of a 12 year absence of Peter Weir, with his most recent film before this being Master and Commander. Though this isn't a masterpiece, it's good to see him make a return, and even better to see that he hasn't totally lost his touchc. Hopefully he won't let so much time pass between this and his next one, because God only knows that no one can make a film quite like him.
Super Reviewer
December 31, 2010
Based on a true story. Prisoners of war escape a inhumane Soviet Union camp to trek through harsh winter snow to scorching desert heat and sand storms. Slow moving but pictureque.
Super Reviewer
September 16, 2010
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, Dragos Bucur, Gustaf Skarsgård, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Alexandru Potocean

Director: Peter Weir

Summary: After narrowly escaping from a wretched World War II Siberian labor camp, a small band of multinational soldiers desperately undertakes a harrowing journey to traverse Siberia, the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas on foot.

My Thoughts: "A beautifully shot movie about a journey to freedom. The actors are really good in the film. As they travel you get to know them a bit and root for them all even knowing some will not survive. The obstacles they had to over come on their journey is admirable. If not for their strong will to survive, I think most would have turned and went back or given up and died. The chemistry between the character's seems so natural. They truly care for one another and refuse to leave anyone behind. It's a beautifully done film of inspiring character's. Their survival of their journey was truly a miracle and I'm in awe of their strength and will. The film should be seen."
Super Reviewer
½ July 12, 2011
Peter Weir's 'The Way Back' is an occasionally gripping film that only flounders under its long run time and its characters' unoriginal plight. The acting, however, is brilliant. Everyone gives very strong and entertaining performances, especially an enthralling Colin Farrell. The film also fails to invest its audience emotionally, with character deaths that are not as gut-wrenching as they should be. Still, 'The Way Back' seems to have a good head on its shoulders, and comes very close to accomplishing what it tried to.
Super Reviewer
June 1, 2011
An epic human endeavour film was a great chance for director Peter Weir to gain back some respect after the disappointing dud "Master and Commander". It's a chance that Weir has passed up though, as this is just as much of a letdown as his last outing behind the camera.
In 1940, seven prisoners escape from the confines of a Russian gulag in Siberia, and set out on a gruelling, 4,500-mile trek across some of the world's harshest terrain, with little food and few supplies. Their efforts are almost certainly doomed, yet they would rather die as free men than Stalin's prisoners.
With "Master and Commander" Peter Weir last helmed the camera in the water. With this, he is very much on dry land but unfortunately his results are much the same. This is a real bore-fest. What we get are lots of weather beaten skin and ground beaten feet. The occasional bout of starvation is thrown in and that's pretty much the jist of the whole film. But ultimately, we the audience, are starved of anything that resembles substance. Fortunately we get a few crumbs tossed our way with some gorgeous scenery by cinematographer Russell Boyd. There's no doubt that this looks fantastic but it's not enough. Not nearly enough. The film is as long and arduos as the supposed journey. The characters are interesting, most notably Colin Farrell's thief Valka, but he leaves the film far too soon and the likes of Ed Harris and especially Saoirse Ronan have very little to do. There's no faulting the performances, the actors do what they can with the limited material which is flimsy and seriously underwritten. In fact, it was exposed as being based on a complete lie and not the true adventure it had been labeled as. Not a good start...not a good middle and not a good end either. The only thing it had in it's favour was the wonderful scenery, but then again, with a film that is backed by National Geographic, you expect that certain standard.
A real disapointment from director Peter Weir. I have come to expect more from him. It will appeal as a travelogue maybe, but as a form of entertainment, it has about as much appeal as looking at someone else's holiday snaps.
Super Reviewer
½ January 19, 2011
Peter Weir's latest film tells the man-against-the-elements story of a group of prisoners who walk 4000 miles to India after escaping a Siberian gulag, facing harsh weather. Harsh is probably an understatement. Freezing cold, searing heat, snowstorms, sandstorms, bugs; the effects of these conditions are showcased masterfully with the Oscar-nominated makeup by Edouard Henriques, Greg Funk and Yolanda Toussieng. The cinematography is also remarkable. Spectacular wide shots of the snow-covered Russian landscape, or the sandy, hot-as-hell Gobi Desert show that the journey was definitely not an easy task. Despite the tragic circumstances (and the appealing imagery), The Way Back is mostly uneventful and never really involving. The cast is underwhelming, and their accents dodgy. At times, that last thing doesn't matter. Jim Sturgess speaks with his eyes, for example. On the other hand, usually stellar Colin Farrell is laughably bad. Saoirse Ronan is the best among a predominantly male cast. And I don't know what it is about Ed Harris, but he never impresses me. I know he's a good actor; he's just never blown me away. At 133 minutes, the film is very, very long, yet some sequences still feel rushed.
Super Reviewer
½ June 8, 2011
Just a really well done survival story that manages to find something new about war to tackle. While it may have a familiar story and reminiscent of movies like The Great Escape, Bridge on the River Kwai and Rescue Dawn, it definitely stands apart with the way it portrays its characters and their story. There's an effort to shy away from too much character development; most of these characters remain a mystery throughout. However, you still end up caring about these people a lot and want them to succeed just as bad. Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and a completely bizarre Colin Farrell all make a huge effort to make these characters realistic. Peter Weir's direction and use of the landscape given is just amazing; you really begin to feel like you're there. This also happens to be paced a lot better than it theoretically should be; it moves extremely fast for a movie about people walking for two hours.
Super Reviewer
June 6, 2011
Incredible story of 6 men who escape from a Russian Camp in Siberia, and they walk all the way to India, over mountains and hellish conditions. Shows the will of these men to survive, while on there trek they find a women who also has escape a women's camp. Not all make it to India, see who does and who doesn't. National Geographic sponsor this film. I am sorry I missed it on the big screen. Worth every bit of 5 stars.
Super Reviewer
½ January 23, 2010
The Way Back is a drama about a group of prisoners and a teenage girl seeking to escape the reach of the communists in 1941. 

Loosely based on a true story, the movie follows the group from their escape from a Soviet gulag in Siberia, through the Gobi Desert and across the Himalayas...all on foot. It's was an incredibly perilous journey, and many of the characters do not make it to the end. Hunger, exposure, exhaustion, and dehydration were the almost constant companions of the group, and they took their toll. 

The great cast (including Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, and Mark Strong) really makes you care about the slowly bonding group as they travel mile after mile through harsh conditions and dangerous environments. The Way Back may not have the thrills of an action blockbuster, but it kept my interest throughout. A good movie about a very interesting subject. 
Super Reviewer
½ May 10, 2011
Although this movie does not offer the truly involving drama that the viewer might expect, the sweeping scale of the film itself - including the great performances from the cast - overshadow most flaws. And as a Lithuanian immigrant who's mother was born in a similar labor camp in Siberia - the film's intentions deeply resonate with me.
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2011
"Their escape was just the beginning"

Siberian gulag escapees walk 4000 miles overland to freedom in India.

In 1941, seven assorted inmates of a Siberian prison camp escape, pick up a teenage girl on the way, and walk 4,000 miles to freedom in India (well, some of them). This true life story is a straightforward piece of work, and stands primarily on the drama inherent in the journey and the hardships suffered by the escapees. As well as its strength this is also its weakness, because it never really draws all members of the fellowship as strongly as they deserve to be drawn. One is left with memories of Ed Harris as the pessimistic American and Saoirse Ronan as orphan Irena as the dominant personalities. Colin Farrell is Colin Farrell, and Mark Strong makes a short appearance. As for the others - by the time you have sorted out who is who, and they have individually started to make impressions, the movie is over. But it is a gripping movie where you are constantly amazed at how inhospitable this planet can be, and how resilient people can be in challenging the worst life can throw at them. And this film, too, contains one of those magic moments to treasure - a masterclass in dialogue-free acting from Harris, lasting no more than a few seconds, after Ronan has washed his damaged foot.
Super Reviewer
½ January 21, 2011
Very good film, lots of struggle, sacrifice and courage involve in this film. Great acting by some good actors and some newcomers.

Their escape was just the beginning

During WWII Janusz(Jim Sturgess), young Polish officer held by Soviets as POW, is interrogated by NKVD (Stalinist secret security police). When Russians cannot force him to admit he is a spy, they bring his wife and extort from her a statement condemning Janusz. As a result he is sentenced to 20 years in one of the Gulag forced labour camps deep in Siberia.

At the camp , Janusz meets an American Mr Smith(Ed Harris), an actor Khabarov(Mark Strong), a hardened Russian criminal Valka(Colin Farrell), Polish artist Tomasz(Alexandru Potocean), a Latvian priest Voss(Gustaf Skarsgård), a Pole suffering from night blindness Kazik(Sebastian Urzendowsky), and an accountant from Yugoslavia Zoran(Dragos Bucur). Khabarov secretly tells Janusz that he is planing to escape south to Mongolia, passing Lake Baikal. It turns out that it's just Khabarov's fantasy in order to keep his own morale high, but Janusz decides to implement the plan. He runs away with Mr Smith, Valka, Voss, Tomasz, Zoran, and Kazik during a severe snowstorm in order to cover their tracks.

During a second night of their escape Kazik freezes to death after loosing his way to the fireplace while looking for wood and is later buried but the group. After many days of travel across the snows of Siberia they reach Lake Baikal. There they meet Polish girl Irena(Saoirse Ronan), who tells them a story of her parents being murdered by Russian soldiers, and her escape from a collective farm near Warsaw. Not all the details of her explanation how she ended up so far away from Europe check out (e.g. Warsaw is still under German occupation), but it turns out that she tried to conceal some more tragic experience. The group let's her join their quest.

When they reach an unpatrolled border between Russia and Mongolia Valka decides to stay, as he still sees Russia as his home country, and Josef Stalin as a hero. The rest continue to Ulaanbaatar, but soon they see images of Stalin and a red star. As it becomes clear that they will not be safe in Mongolia which is now also a Communist state, they realize that India is the closest refuge for them. As they continue south, across the Gobi desert, lack of water, sandstorms, skin burned to red-flesh, blisters and sun strokes weaken the group. Irena collapses several times and soon dies. The next to die is Tomasz. Smith seems on a verge of death to, but motivated by Janusz rejoins remaining Zoran and Voss and soon all four find a small stream of water and avoid dehydration.

While getting close to Himalayas they are guided to a Buddhist monastery, where they regain their strength. Smith decides to go to Lhasa from there to join American military mission fighting next to Chinese against Japan. The other three continue towards the Himalayas and they soon reach India.

At the end of the film Janusz finally reunites with his wife half a century later. For all those years he wanted to see his wife again so he could forgive her and she could thereby forgive herself.
Super Reviewer
April 7, 2011
An almost perfect survival movie about a 4000 mile walk from Siberia to India. Supported by an excellent cast as well.
Although towards the end of movie it feels like some one was in a real rush to pack everything up. Movie makers went to so much details in showing the trek from Siberia to Tibet, but when finally the time for the toughest part of their journey, through Himalayas came, everything was wrapped up and in the blink of an eye, the end credits were rolling.
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