In 1941, three men attempt to flee communist Russia, escaping a Siberian gulag. This movie tells their story and that of four others who escaped with them and a teenage girl, Irena Zielinska (Saoirse Ronan), who joins them in flight. The group's natural leader is Janusz Weiszczek (Jim Sturgess), a Pole condemned by accusations secured by torturing his wife, spent much of his youth outdoors, and knows how to live in the wild. They escape under cover of a snowstorm: cynical American Mr. Smith (Ed Harris), Russian thug Valka (Colin Farrell), comedic accountant Zoran (Dragos Bucur), pastry chef Tomasz Horodinsky (Alexandru Potocean), who draws, Priest Andrejs Voss (Gustav Skarsgård), and Polish Kazik (Sebastian Urzendowsky), who suffers from night blindness. They face freezing nights, lack of food and water, mosquitoes, an endless desert, the Himalayas, as well as many moral and ethical dilemmas throughout the journey towards freedom.Written by
<email@example.com>, Shahob, Bellingham, WA, US
Renowned historian Anne Applebaum, who won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction for "GULAG: A history"(2003), worked as a historical consultant on this movie. She said about the historical accuracy: "I read the script a couple of times. I know that other people read the script as well. He (Writer, Producer, and Director Peter Weir) sent it to another historian at Stanford and he sent it to a couple of the survivors whose names I'd given him. And I have to say I thought the result was superb. You know, there may be little licenses you have to take in order to convey to an audience that doesn't know the story, what's going on. Sometimes the guards say things they might not have said because they are explaining things to the audience. But given that he needed to do things like that, I think it's extraordinary. It's amazingly real. You understand exactly how claustrophobic it was. Many of the incidents that you see in the movie come from real stories or come from gulag survivor and Writer Varlam Shalamov or come from other gulag writers. I can see them almost exactly. I think it's an extremely well-done film and about as true-to-life as you could make a movie." (2010) See more »
The original plan is to escape to Mongolia, but they discover it has a Communist government. But this government had been ruling since 1924. It is unlikely that not one of the escape party would have known this. See more »
Peter Weir's first film in seven years is another exercise in sturdy direction with strong social themes running through it - recalling many of his previous works in style and content. It follows a group of escaped prisoners from a Siberian gulag in 1940 as they brave the treacherous wilderness of Asia for freedom from the Soviet regime. It's tough viewing for the most part but there is a surprising amount of comic relief along the way, provided chiefly by Colin Farrell's salty character. The group scavenge for food, even fighting off wolves for the carcass of an animal at one point - but the constant bickering and relentless doom and gloom does begin to wear. The film picks up however once Saoirse Ronan enters the picture and her youthful feminine presence brings an interesting dynamic. Emoting with a flawless Polish accent (almost like a mini-Streep) her character is one of the more compelling and layered and gives this emerging young actress a chance to display her skills. The cinematography is serviceable but hardly spectacular - capturing a harsh, arid landscape as opposed to Malick-like celebration of nature.
As the film wears on, the struggle to survive intensifies, particular when they reach the Ghobi desert - the scenes are very well done but viewing becomes quite grueling. Harris bring a certain integrity to his role in a rather unshowy performance with not much character introspection (I can see why his Oscar buzz has disappeared). In fact character development across the board is quite lacking, and watching the plot unfold, with the knowledge of the outcome of the story already provided in the opening titles - the narrative becomes quite arbitrary and the story doesn't always sustain interest. The final leg of the journey through the Himalayas almost seems rushed compared to the bloated second act. Still, it's a very well-made film with good acting and visuals - just don't expect to be inspired.
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