Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Way Back

Director Peter Weir returns with this extraordinary tale of survival based on a true story. It's 1940 and a small group of multi-national prisoners stage an escape from a Russian Gulag in Siberia. They proceed to walk 4000 miles south to freedom in India. All the tension and suspense lie in who will survive.

The film stars Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, and Colin Farrell. While the story holds your attention for two hours, it's the tale itself that bears watching and not the acting. This is man against nature at it's worst and while everyone is solid in their part, there is no opportunity to develop the characters and they become almost interchangeable. Mr. Harris is stoic, Mr. Sturgess is determined, and Mr. Farrell does a terrible Russian accent but still manages to appear menacing. That's the extent of it. When Ms. Ronan joins the group, she is the tragic figure who manages to get the men to open up a bit about themselves.

Aside from the characters lack of depth, the cinematography is gorgeous and the story is harrowing. Mr. Weir convincingly makes you feel every bit of icy cold and all the heat of the blistering sun.The ending is a bit rushed but ends on a sentimental note. It's an old fashioned adventure story filmed on location without the use of CGI and that alone makes it a breath of fresh air in what is usually the January dumping ground of movies.

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