What’s it about?
Seven prisoners shacked up in a Soviet Gulag in 1940 break free and undertake a 10,000km trek across every terrain imaginable. They must head east to escape the pervading onslaught of Communism and live as free men. But, as you can imagine, when you’ve got to navigate vast swathes of desert and cross the Himalayas, escaping those nasty Rushkies soon becomes the least of their worries. Directed by Peter Weir, who’s taken a bit of a break since the brilliant Master and Commander in 2003, The Way Back has been long in the making, and inspired by the true story of a Gulag escapee.
Who’s in it?
It’s a tour de force of Brits and Irish, with Ed Harris thrown in for good measure. Jim Sturgess plays the fearless troupe leader whose invaluable map-reading skills keep them going in the right direction, Ed Harris is a steely, tough veteran who longs to get back to the good old U.S. of A, and Saoirse Ronan (no, we’ve got no idea how it’s pronounced either) joins the gang later on as a refugee, injecting some much needed female gentility into the mix. Our favourite character, though, is the loyal sociopath Valka (excellently played by Colin Farrell). If you look at him funny he’ll probably stick his hunting knife in your neck, but if he’s on your side, you’ve got a friend for life.
We can’t remember the last time we saw such spectacular cinematography (and without the use of any technological gimmicks). It almost made us cry. During the daily grind, it’s all too easy to forget just how beautiful our little world is. But here, lingering panoramas abound, of mountains, deserts, forests and huge tracts of wilderness, all of which convey the near-impossibility of their completing the journey at hand. If you’re looking for non-stop action or the latest CGI, go elsewhere. But if you want a film that showcases some breathtaking natural beauty, one that strives for realism and makes you truly appreciate the awesome resolve of the human spirit, this one’s for you.
The Way Back is released on 26 December 2010