The Way Back Blu-ray
Inspired by true events, The Way Back tells the tale of several men who escape from a Siberian gulag. The film is directed by multiple Oscar-nominee Peter Weir. The ensemble cast is led by Jim Sturgess and includes Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, and Colin Farrell. As the men walk to freedom, they are threatened by nature, their oppressors, and their own humanity. Facing death at nearly every turn, the men continue towards the promise of freedom.
Janusz (Sturgess) is sentenced to a term of twenty years in a Siberian prison camp on suspicion of being a spy. Eager to get out of the extreme working conditions, Janusz plans to escape to freedom. However, beyond the barbed wire fence lies mountainous land for miles, and escaped prisoners have a bounty on their heads which can be claimed by the locals. The journey to freedom is a long and dangerous one for anyone who attempts it. Several men from the camp follow Janusz, pooling their supplies together. Eventually a runaway girl (Ronan) begs the group to let her travel with them. Together they must face harsh conditions and an ever growing fear that they won’t make it.
Weir does an excellent job of creating a tense atmosphere. The expansive wilderness dwarfs the group and their small collection of rations. Even when things are looking up, the visuals are a constant reminder that this journey is not a safe or easy one. From the snowy forests, the large mountains, and to the desert, the film is beautifully shot and a pleasure to watch.
Sturgess is great as the optimistic leader of the group. As a newcomer to the camp, he is eager to leave and isn’t as jaded as many of the prisoners. The others in the group are not as immediately likeable as Sturgess, but their characters are well developed and superbly acted. Ed Harris plays an American prisoner who insists survival requires a person to only look out for himself, and Colin Farrell plays a dangerous prisoner who is part of a ruthless group who run things from the inside. At times the men don’t get along, but each plays a crucial role in the journey.
The only drawback to the film is its length. At times, the journey feels like it’s taking too long to come to an end. However, this seems like it was possibly a directorial decision. The 4,500-mile trek that the prisoners take isn’t short by any stretch of the imagination. This feeling of wanting the film to come to an end is similar to the feeling the people on the journey would have in wanting to reach freedom. Still, some of the events could have occurred at a little faster pace.
The Blu-ray contains a 30-minute documentary detailing the making of the movie. Weir and the actors talk about their experiences making the film. This featurette is worth watching and offers some good insight into the film. The feeling of camaraderie achieved in the film is expressed by the actors’ own camaraderie as they filmed in various tough locations. The only other bonus feature is a theatrical trailer. Though there aren’t a lot of special features, what is here is high quality. The Way Back is a powerful film and the behind the scenes is insightful and entertaining.
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