In 1941, three men attempt to flee communist Russia, 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, spent much of his youth outdoors, and knows how to live in the wild. They escape under cover of a snowstorm: a cynical American, a Russian thug, a comedic 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, as well as many moral and ethical dilemmas throughout the journey towards freedom.Written by
<firstname.lastname@example.org>, Shahob, Bellingham, WA, US
Director and co-writer Peter Weir included the experiences of French adventurer Cyril Delafosse-Guiramand, who did the walk described in Slavomir Rawicz's book. He became a technical advisor for the film production. Peter Weir recollected: "...Cyril Delafosse-Guiramand, late 30s, French. He works in the IT industry but his hobby is walking. He was inspired by the book and sometime after 2000 he undertook the walk, so he was the first person I went to see. He was living in Laos then with his wife. So I went up there and we talked for a couple of days and I said, 'Would you advise us? I'll send you scripts.' Then I began to say, 'Can I put some of the stuff you're telling me in, like this thing about these mosquitoes? This man you met in the forest that has a bark necklace?' He said, 'Sure,' very generously so I put that in.. Then he coached the actors and then was with us every day." See more »
In Mongolia, the escapees approach an arch decorated with photos of Stalin and a Mongolian leader. When they first see the arch, there is a band of local people coming toward them, led by a person mounted on an animal (probably a horse). However, as the escapees reach the arch, the local band has disappeared. See more »
Anyone familiar with Peter Weir's incredible body of work - particularly his earlier Australian-produced movies - knows that a new Weir movie is an important event indeed. Almost all Weir's too-infrequent movies are at least noteworthy (Witness, Dead Poets Society) if not downright great (Year of Living Dangerously, The Last Wave).
With The Way Back, Weir may have made his greatest film ever. An epic and unrushed (2 1/4 hours) trek from a Soviet Gulag to the green hills of India, this is a beautifully filmed and superbly acted piece. Let it take its time; it is thrilling and appalling, but also beautiful.
The story, which Weir apparently has long wanted to film, is based on the account of a Polish army officer who later moved to England and wrote (with a ghost-writer) the book "The Long Walk," describing the journey he took with seven others. The movie is quite true to the book, right down to the American "Mr. Smith," Ed Harris' character. While the veracity of the story in the book has been questioned, that doesn't interfere with the great film-making.
Harris is fine as always, as is Colin Farrell as a Russian thug, but it is Jim Sturgess, as the Polish leader of the expedition, who has the most bravura performance.
Bravo to the cast, cinematographer, and most of all, Mr. Weir.
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