THE WAY BACK (2011)

TMG Scale 4.5
Starring Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess

This film was misnamed.  It should have been called The Long Way Out…of the Movie Theatre.”  It was just exhausting to watch a band of folks trek 4000 miles across Siberia through sand, snow, heat, starvation, thirst and then do it all over again and again.  I just wanted to shout, “OKAY.  I GET IT. . . I GET IT!”  Crossing Siberia and surviving off the land is a real, major  bitch…and then some.  But I want some story and dialogue to go with it.  The cinematography was awesome and this film could be a training film in any certified school of meteorology. You get to see lots of weather—mostly bad.   Beyond that, it’s a long haul.

The scene is 1938 Russian prison camp in Siberia.  The camp is as bad or perhaps worse than the more written about and filmed German prison camps.  It was a vicious time of man’s inhumanity to man. A Russian prison camp was just a slow and painful death. I often have wondered why more of the prisoners just did not openly revolt. Many would get shot and killed but they had the numbers to do it. A few did try to escape but the fence and wires were not the real prison barriers. It was 4000 miles across Siberia to freedom.

This film is just a fictional account of how a few may have made it.  Sturgess is the young buck who strikes a deal with Farrell, the prison barracks thug. They both team up with the barracks “old man” Harris…and off they go. The first thirty minutes is actually interesting and promising. After that there is just nothing but camp fire chat while starving, dying and meeting hungry wolves.  Must every movie lately feature some hungry wolves?

Ed Harris is great as usual, but we expect that.  Colin Farrell falls out early in this film which is unfortunate. Jim Sturgess (best know as Ben in the 2008 MIT card shark film “21“) certainly shows he has some talent. Director, Peter Weir, is no slouch by a long shot. Weir brought  us Master and Commander (2003), Dead Poets Society (1989), The Truman Show (1998) and on and on. So what went wrong?  I think Weir must have had just too much fun in Siberia on location and fell victim to the old cliche “half the fun is just getting there.”  That works for vacations but not for memorable and great films.  This film just struggled on way too long with no character development or fascinating dialogue. I think I went through six drinks and five bags of popcorn watching this non thriller. I was just famished.  And perhaps that is simply the message Weir was going for.  He wanted us to feel the escapees pain.  Trust me.  We did.

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