At the Movies: The Way Back

Well, this is embarrassing. Turns out I did have a movie to write about this week after all. I thought this movie was opening next week but as I was just looking through my schedule I see it opened yesterday. Ah well, better a day late than a week late, right?

“The Way Back” is inspired by another amazing story set during the days of the Second World War. Is there no end to the number of amazing stories that took place during WWII?

Jim Sturgess stars as Janusz, a young Pole sent to a Siberian labor camp under the accusation (confirmed under duress by his wife) that he is a spy. Determined to escape, he is joined by about a half-dozen others including Mr. Smith (Ed Harris), an American engineer who won’t give his real name, and Valka (Colin Farrell), a thief and general troublemaker that they can’t really trust — but he does have a knife.

Janusz knows how to live off the land in harsh conditions, so he becomes the leader of the group. Under cover of darkness they slip out of the camp and into the harsh conditions of Siberia. What follows is a 4,000-mile trek — by foot — from Siberia to India. Their initial goal was Mongolia, but when they get there they discover it is now aligned with the Communists, so they detour through the Gobi desert to Tibet. Then its over the Himalayas to freedom.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Oh, and along the way they pick up a young woman ( Saoirse Ronan) claiming to have escaped from a Russian collective farm. Needless to say, not everyone makes it all the way.

Directed by Peter Weir and inspired by the book “The Long Walk” by Slawomir Rawicz, it’s an amazing story — if true (there’s some debate about that). Whether true or not, the film features gorgeous cinematography and fine performances. I would have liked more background on some of the characters but that’s not a major quibble.

Did it work for me? It drags at times and sometimes makes you feel like you’re walking those 4,000 miles along with them, but overall yes, it was worth watching.

 

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