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The Way Back

Year: 2010
Studio: Exclusive Films
Director: Peter Weir
Producer: Peter Weir
Writer: Peter Weir/Keith R Clarke
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong

A good friend described this film as good to look at but 'procedural', and it's exactly what I was thinking without being able to put my finger on it.

If it had been anyone other than the man who bought us visionary movies like Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Truman Show and Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World it might have looked better, but while every frame looks authentic, the script has a curious propensity to stumble blithely from one scene to the next rather than flow steadily. It isn't helped by the at-times silly dialogue exposition either, as if both Weir and his co-screenwriter thought only stupid people would be watching it.

But despite the problems, it covers an incredible true story however that must be seen to believed as a small group of Gulag prisoners in the second World War break out of their freezing far north Soviet prison and walk to India. Yes, look at it on a map – it means they crossed the entire countries of Russia, Mongolia and Nepal through freezing, damp forests, endless semiarid desert and the highest mountain range on Earth – a journey of over four thousand miles.

But the film is plodding as we follow the ever-decreasing number of uneasy friends from one harsh landscape to the next, picking up a young escaped POW on the way (Ronan) and forming an erstwhile family. With the stoic American (Harris), brutal Russian (Farrell) and likeable, determined Pole (Sturgess) it almost feels like an 80s action thriller with the munitions expert, sniper, comic sidekick, martial artists etc with the characters created to offer particular 'types' to broaden the perspective, but I have no reason to believe they're not based on the men who made the actual journey.

It would have been one to see on the big screen, but 'see' is the operative word – it's not as immersive as it is simply well shot.

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