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Home » Culture and Criticism

The Way Back

Submitted by on February 20, 2011 – 9:32 PM5 Comments

Sarah 36, Death Race 20; 16 of 24 categories completed

It’s a good yarn, in theory — a bunch of guys escape from a Siberian gulag during World War II and walk all the way to India (well…some of them do) — but in the actual telling, there’s a problem of modulation, or rather the lack of it. The movie opens with the privations of prison; it’s freezing, there’s almost no food, and the gangsters who run the place will kill each other over a sweater.

But once the escape is effected, the story is more or less a list of the subsequent privations, one as wretched and seemingly terminal as the next: freezing, starving, inadequate footwear, skunky water, sunstroke, exhaustion, madness. The pitch doesn’t really vary, because it can’t, and after a while, the horrors become routine. I just kind of shut down and waited to see if Ed Harris’s character would die or not; it’s the only thing that feels relatable after a while.

Harris is quite good, but Jim Sturgess as Janusz, the ostensible mastermind of the journey, is too bland for that role (although that could be the writing’s fault). Saoirse Ronan turns in the same squinty, watery performance she always does, and their respective accents beat Ronan and Colin Farrell handily. The Way Back isn’t outright boring or bad, and Peter Weir tries to nuance the shot-making, at least, but the all-big-moments nature of the story doesn’t allow for much of that.




  • lsn says:

    From what I remember of the novel it suffered the same problems as the film seems to – it just goes on and on and people keep grinding away and/or dying. I have to ask though – did they have the Yeti in the film? Because that really was one of the odder parts of the book.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I haven’t seen this but I have only this to say:

    Anyone who decides to make a movie out of this story and decides to SKIP THE YETI does not deserve my entertainment dollar.

  • Monty says:

    In fact, every time you finish making any movie, you should look at the checklist. Did you remember to include a Yeti? If not, maybe you should go back for some reshoots.

  • DuchessKitty says:

    I had planned on seeing this tonight, but now I kind of don’t want to. Sigh…I do love Ed Harris and Colin Farrel though.

  • lsn says:

    @Monty:And now I’m imagining a Yeti in Animal Kingdom. Which would work, actually.

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