¨Kindness. That will kill you here¨
The Way Back is a fantastic movie directed by Peter Weir, who made one of my favorite films, The Dead Poets Society. I don’t think any of his movies will live up to that one, but The Way Back is still a great and inspiring movie. The film is based on the novel ¨The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom¨ written by Slavomir Rawicz who claims the book is autobiographical although many skeptics have found flaws in his claims. I don’t care if the events actually happened or not, I still think they made for a great and inspiring story. I`ve seen many films about survival and some are greatly exaggerated (The Grey for example), but this tale is as realistic as it gets. There are several long shots of beautiful scenery where nothing much happens other than long and exhausting walks. I guess that is what a survival film should have: endless walking. I even got tired of seeing these characters walk so much, but Peter Weir adapted the screenplay in such a way that he maintains us interested in the characters and their struggle for survival and their refusal to surrender under such harsh adversities. I also loved the performance from the cast, Jim Sturgess was strong as the lead role and he had a lot of help from the supporting cast including the always reliable Ed Harris (who gave one of the best performances of his career in another Peter Weir movie: The Truman Show), Colin Farrell who may have had a few misses but also has a lot of hits including this one thanks to his great Russian accent, and of course the young and talented Saoirse Ronan who we have seen in Atonement and Hannah. The Way Back is a solid movie with a lot of heart, beautiful scenery, and some strong performances.
The story is pretty simple, it takes place during the early 1940`s in communist URSS during the Second World War. Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is a Polish accused of being a spy by his own wife (after having tortured her) and therefore sent to a Siberian gulag where he meets other innocent and no so innocent prisoners. Some of these prisoners include the reserved American Mr. Smith (Ed Harris), a Russian criminal Valka (Colin Farrell), and Khabarov (Mark Strong) the man who introduces him to the place and befriends him. Janusz knows how to survive in the wild and begins to engineer a plan to escape and walk across Russia to Mongolia. Along with Mr. Smith, Valka, and a few more men they decide to escape in the middle of a snow storm and take their chances in the wild. With little food and fierce weather conditions they begin their struggle for survival in the open. During their journey to Mongolia they face several obstacles but continue to pursue south. On their way they meet a teenage girl who is also trying to flee the country. Irena (Saoirse Ronan) begs the men allow her to accompany them and although they refused at first they begin befriending her and enjoying her company. Together they continue their struggle for survival in search of freedom although many more obstacles are ahead of them.
I really enjoyed Colin Farrell`s performance in this movie. I think he brought the comic relief that was needed in this type of movie and was perfect. His scenes were probably the most interesting ones. Jim Sturgess has a great future ahead of him and he does give a strong performance in this difficult film. Ed Harris is one of the best actors so it was no surprise he was so good in this movie. Saoirse Ronan gives the movie the heart it lacked at the beginning. The movie has an excellent cast; they give great performances and make us care for their characters which are essential in a survival movie like this. Every time the movie seems to be slowing down something exciting or interesting happens that hooks us again. There is also a lot of different and beautiful scenery in the film and the cinematography is great. The film also reminds us of the oppressive regime that the soviets ran and the injustice many had to face. It makes a pretty harsh statement towards this political movement, but in the end it is actually a movie about survival and never giving up.