Peter Weir’s stunning upcoming movie is the story of prisoners escaped from a Siberian prison who commence upon a grueling journey through five inhospitable countries to gain their freedom.
The Way Back is filmed sparsely in the manner of a David Lean film. It’s a sort of old Hollywood type of great entertainment that’s no longer made. It looks like Weir remembers how to make this kind of movie and, in his new movie release, not only has brought us a terrific ensemble of actors but he brings us a grand story of man against nature as well.
This one of the year’s early new movie releases got a run for the Academy in December but won’t open publicly until January 21. The distributor of the film, Newmarket and Wreken Hill Entertainment, are dealing with a small marketing budget and this may spoil what might have been a grand opening worthy of one of the year’s finest new movies.
Weir’s last work was “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” in 2003. Weir has been nominated six times for an Oscar. His new project is an adaptation of a novel by Slavomir Rawicz, “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom,” is part prison and part survival drama. It’s about a prisone escape in the frigid Siberian winter. The escapees are led by Janusz, played by Jim Sturgess, a young prisoner from Poland. Janusz knows a lot about survival and has good personal reasons to want to escape. Mark Strong plays a Russian Actor named Khabarov who recognizes Janusz’ talents. Khabarov has been dreaming about freedom and now there are other prisoners who want to get out. They include Valka, played by Colin Farrell. He’s a Russian. Ed Harris plays Mr. Smith, an American engineer. Tomasz, played by Alexandru Potocean and Kazik, played by Sebastian (both Poles), Voss, and a Latvian, played by Latvian Gustaf Skargsgard, are all joined by Zoran, played by Dragos Bucar, a Yugoslav.
The first half hour of "The Way Back" is set in the jail but the remainder of the movie follows the actors on their journey through the frigid Siberian woods, the empty plains of Mongolia, and the terrible heat of the Gobi Desert. During their travels they meet a young woman who is a refugee, played by Saorise Ronan. She joins them, although not all the fleeing prisoners agree that this is a good idea. While the movie may be all about “survival of the fittest,” the real core of the film is the relationships between the prisoners. The audience will wonder who will live through the journey.
Ed Harris and Saorise Ronan stand out from the other actors as they develop a lovely “father/daughter” relationship. Sturgess is wonderful to watch in his tough and crafty role. Colin Farrell is the best of them all and steals every scene. Cinematographer and Oscar winner, Russell Boyd, is to be congratulated on the beauty of the scenery in “The Way Back.”
This is a first rate movie. Hopefully, director Weir will be encouraged to make more of this sort of movie.