In 1941, three men reach India from Tibet, having walked 4000 miles after escaping a Siberian gulag. The film tells their story and that of four others who escaped with them and a teenage girl who joins them in flight. The group's natural leader is Janusz, a Pole condemned by accusations secured by torturing his wife; he knows how to live in the wilds. They escape under cover of a snowstorm: a cynical American, a Russian thug, a comic accountant, a pastry chef who draws, a priest, and a Pole with night blindness. They face freezing nights, lack of food and water, mosquitoes, an endless desert, the Himalayas, and moral questions of when to leave someone behind. Written by
Early in the film, as the prisoners are marched up to the front gate of the Gulag prison camp, a slogan written in Russian Cyrillic letters is seen over that gate. It is a slightly shortened variation of a famous propaganda slogan from Communist-era Soviet Union, which translates approximately to "Labor in the USSR is a matter of honour, a matter of valour and heroism." See more »
Janusz demonstrates a method using shadows of a stick and rock to find the compass direction of south. Yet, many of the scenes show them walking in a direction inconsistent with sun angles i.e. sun at their backs, which would have them walking north. See more »
Six-time Academy Award nominated director Peter Weir ("Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World", "The Truman Show") directed and wrote the adaptive screenplay for "The Way Back" based on the book "The Long Walk: A True Story of a Trek to Freedom" by Slawomir Rawicz, a Polish POW from the Soviet Gulag where the story begins, and on real life accounts of the journey. The film unluckily missed a very well deserved 2010 Oscar birth telling the tale about an unthinkable journey of kinship created between a diverse group of Soviet Gulag escapees. Their journey covers 4,000 miles from Siberia to freedom in India giving meaning to the word incredible. The cinematography is used most majestically by capturing panoramas of the strikingly dangerous yet breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. The splendor of the film goes beyond the wilderness with the selection of a very accurate and diverse cast starring Jim Sturgess ("21"), Ed Harris ("The Rock"), Colin Farrel ("In Bruges"), Saoirse Ronan ("The Lovely Bones"), and Mark Strong ("Sherlock Holmes"). Together they recreate the peril and wonder of the impossible journey on foot that started with the idea of a man named Khabrov (Strong) to break out of the Godforsaken Soviet Gulag in Siberia. A Polish man named Janusz, driven by the fire to get back to his wife, puts the idea into action. An older, wise American known as Mr. Smith (Harris) joins ranks when he hears about Janusz's plans and warns him that Khabarov never had any aspiration to actually leave the place. However, the idea becomes a reality attracting an indebt prisoner named Valka (Farrel) and four other men escaping the Gulag and meeting a young girl named Irena (Ronan) on the path to freedom.
The story is synonymous with walking more than a marathon every day through harsh terrain, uncontrollable elements and lack of food and water for an open-ended amount of time. The gravity of the story is unmatched by any film released this year; told through the art of cinematography and the acting talents of the cast. Both Oscar worthy aspects of the film, however, the cinematography itself is unmatched by any 2010 film. Also, a lot can be said about the all-star cast concerning Jim Sturges, Ed Harris, Colin Farrel, Mark Strong, and Saoirse Ronan and their superb character portrayals; however, there is one other actor that stands out. A man in the group named Zoran played by Dragos Bucar is able to break through the thin layer of dramatic tension in the film with his clever social humor. The comedy he creates does not take away from the story and instead adds to the story allowing the characters to unwind and have a good time.
The outcomes to films within the "jailbreak" genre are inevitably easy to predict, therefore, causing films like "The Way Back" to work hard in order to be original. "The Way Back" does a very good job by differentiating the way it is captured on film through its beautiful cinematography; however, great films such as "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Great Escape" will always be on top of the genre. "The Way Back" isn't far off though with its main shortcoming stemming from the ending relying on a storyline tangent not fully developed (not the montage, the montage is great).
This is the most underrated movie of 2010 with its limited advertising exposure, release and lack of award fulfillment with only one Oscar nomination for Best Make Up (well deserved as the group of survivors' skin is torn apart by the elements). A 4,000-mile true story taking place in the World War II era with excellent cinematography and great acting seems like the ideal candidate for the Oscars. So why was this must see film left in the shadows?
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