At the dawn of WWII, several men escape from a Russian gulag—to take a perilous and uncertain journey to freedom as they cross deserts, mountains and several nations.
It is always a pleasure to watch one of Ed Harris movies. The plot hooks you and the staging is impressive but the movie is not as thrilling as it could have been.
***Better to die free than live under the shackles of communism*** "The Way Back" (2010) takes place circa 1940-42 and details a group's mad escape from a Siberian gulag through the cold, desolate Soviet wilderness into Mongolia, across the great Gobi desert, through mountainous Tibet and ultimately freedom in India. The film was inspired by Slavomir Rawicz' popular book "The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom," but not based on it. After records of Rawicz' release from the gulag by the USSR in 1942 were unearthed the veracity of the book was called into question; others suggest that, although the circumstances of the story may not have happened to author Rawicz, they're apparently based on real events with real individuals, like Polish soldier Witold Glinski. Moreover, in light of the millions of prisoners carted away to Siberia during that time period, isn't it likely that a handful of them successfully escaped and had experiences similar to those shown in this movie (and the book) regardless of whether or not they made it all the way to India? In any event, director Peter Weir has plainly stated that the film is largely fictional and only inspired by the book, which may or may not be a true account. The group's natural leader is Janusz (Jim Sturgess), not because he has any leadership charisma but simply because he spent half his life in the woods and KNOWS how to survive in such an environment. As Solomon said, "A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength." Also along for the haul is a cynical American called Mister Smith (Ed Harris), a Russian hooligan named Valka (Colin Farrell), a comic accountant, an artistic pastry chef, a priest, a Pole with night blindness and a teen-aged girl named Irena, played by Saoirse Ronan, who incidentally celebrated her 16th birthday on the set. This a story of survival. The group faces freezing nights, lack of food & water, bugs, death, the never-ending Gobi desert and the Himalayas, not to mention the inevitable moral questions that arise from such a life or death situation. Some have complained that the film involves too much walking, but that's the whole point: the film's about a 4000-mile escape on foot to freedom. It drives home some powerful messages that will be pondered well after viewing: • The government in communistic or extreme socialistic states is a cold, uncaring, demonic machine that will immediately squelch dissidents through any measure possible, including torturous coercion, slander and execution. • Such godless governments are a vile social infection that spreads and must be escaped at all costs. • Is this socialistic disease now spreading to America? Of course it is and it’s been obvious for quite some time (the Dems). • Better to die free than live in a gulag (aka labor camp or reeducation camp) or under dictatorial socialistic governments. • No matter how bad it is, at least you don't have to live in a gulag. • Mongolians and Tibetans are people of true honor. • Saoirse Ronan is a precious young lady. In addition, the film features a great score and spectacular locations, shot in Bulgaria, Morocco and India. FINAL WORD: "The Way Back" is a must if you love survival stories like "Flight of the Phoenix" (especially the original version) or "Sands of the Kalahari," as well as films like "Lawrence of Arabia," "Black Robe" and "Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan." It's unique but it has the same general tone. Stay away if you have ADHD or solely relish films with conventional Hollywood plotting and roll-your-eyes BS, not that there's anything wrong with that, lol. RUNTIME: 2 hours and 13 minutes. GRADE: A-