Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Way Back

A road movie with a difference - they cover 4000 miles - on foot!

Set in 1941 this film tells the story of a group of prisoners in one of Stalin's Gulags in Siberia. The motley crew - a Pole who is there because his wife was tortured into making a false confession about him, an American Engineer there because he tried to escape the depression back home, a baker, and a Russian gangster-type thug. An unlikely group supplemented by a man blinded by the vitamin deficient diet of the Gulag and as they journey by a runaway girl. Indeed, a motley crew if ever there was one.  The premise is simple - walk to freedom in Mongolia.

Everyone is in the Gulag for different reasons - most of them concocted by the State. When three of the inmates decide to escape, their numbers rapidly swell and seven end up making the break under the cover of blizzard which covers their tracks. Led by the Pole Janusz (Jim Sturgess) who is at home in the forests and mountains, the group make their way continually south. Russian soldiers, wolves and mosquitoes all prove worthy foes but the group continues to make progress. they eventually cross into Mongolia only to find that the Mongolians are in cahoots with Russians and so they continue to press on south.

The group adopt a runaway teenage girl Irena (Saoirse Ronan) whose amiability lubricates the social cohesion of the group. Colin Farrell does a very passable Ruski accent as the gangster thug but it is Ed Harris' Mr Smith who adds the gravitas to the band of unlikely travelling companions. With food ranging from snake, to bugs, to deer and fish and at one point even the idea of cannibalism is discussed, so they travel ever southward.

Many adventures befall them on the epic journey. It is a long film but Peter Wier's Direction keeps it moving and the characterisations are always engrossing. I won't spoil the content or the outcome any further for you. This is a fine film and worthy of your attention. It's a pity that all the main characters are played by British/American/Irish actors when there are many fine eastern European actors around (see In Darkness to evidence that point!) Please do get hold of the disc and watch it. National Geographic is one of the sponsoring bodies and much of the cinematography would be at home in that illustrious magazine. I'll give it 7.5/10.

I've seen a total of 8 films in Winnipeg in a week - not bad. Many thanks Vic.

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