Business rating: 0.5 star
Star cast: Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan.
Plot: A group of Russian prisoners of war escape form a Siberian prison to undertake an arduous journey across mountains and deserts to India.
What’s Good: The performances; the camerawork.
What’s Bad: The script, which moves on a single track.
Verdict: The Way Back will fare poorly at the Indian box-office.
Loo break: Anytime, because the story moves at a snail’s pace!
Watch or Not?: Watch only if you have the patience for a slow film with very little drama.
Exclusive Films, National Geographic Entertainment and ImageNation Abu Dhabi’s The Way Back is the story about an arduous journey from Siberia to India, undertaken on foot by a group of gulag survivors.
The film follows a group of political prisoners who are sent to a gulag in the cold land of Siberia, from where there is no escape. However, a few of them plan an escape and manage to get out of the prison by cutting the barbed wire-fence. The Russian soldiers follow them with their trained dogs. Now the group’s only way to freedom is to climb over the Siberian mountains and reach Mongolia.
The group includes an ageing American, Mr. Smith (Ed Harris), a betrayed Pole citizen, Janusz (Jim Sturgess), a Latvian priest, Andrei (Dejan Angelov), and others. They are also blackmailed into taking a career criminal, Valka (Colin Farrell), with them. The group survives by eating raw flesh and conserving rations that they had stolen from the prison. Their journey through the Siberian snow-clad mountains becomes more difficult once they run out of food and water. After they cross Siberia, a young Russian girl, Irena (Saoirse Ronan) joins them.
On reaching Mongolia, the group members realise that Mongolia is under Communist rule and that they would be arrested the moment they were recognised as escaped prisoners. Hence, they decide to take the route through the vast Mongolian desert and over the Himalayas to India. They face hunger, dehydration and complete exhaustion on their way, even as one by one, their number keeps decreasing due to deaths. What happens in the end? Is the group able to make its way to freedom in India? The latter part of the film reveals the rest.
Story and screenplay – The Way Back Review
Keith R. Clarke and Peter Weir’s screenplay, inspired by Slavomir Rawicz’s novel, The Long Walk: The True Story Of A Trek To Freedom, moves on a single track. Although the writers tell an inspiring tale of courage and strength, the way in which the story unfolds on the screen is too simplistic. The obstacles and the conundrums of the guys, who have escaped from prison, are heartfelt, but the fact that nothing drastic happens on the journey starts to bore the audience after some time. Also, the fact that the group of travellers maintains complete calm and equanimity in the face of great adversity seems unreal. There is hardly any conflict in the script. Nothing happens even when a young girl joins the group, which has a sex-starved criminal. This will prove to be a minus point as far as the common Indian viewer is concerned. A few scenes in the film, where the group is shown consuming raw flesh and blood, will not go down well with the Indian viewers. Having said so, it must be added that the elite audience in the Indian metropolitan cities will find some value in the film.
Star performances – The Way Back Review
Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Jim Sturgess deliver competent performances. Saoirse Ronan also does her role with panache. Dragos Bucur (as Zoran), Alexandru Potocean (as Tomasz), Gustaf Skarsgård (as Voss) and Mark Strong (as Khabarov) provide able support.
Direction and Cinematography – The Way Back Review
Peter Weir’s direction is good. He makes an old-fashioned adventure film with a lot of subtlety but only a few thrills. Burkhard Dallwitz’s background score is appropriate. Russell Boyd’s camerawork is very good, especially in capturing the vast emptiness of the mountains and the deserts. Lee Smith’s editing is fair.
The Last Word
All in all, The Way Back will fare poorly at the Indian box-office as it holds value for the elite audience only. The prints will soon find their way back to the godowns.