THE WAY BACK (Peter Weir)


Peter Weir's last film was MASTER AND COMMANDER starring Russell Crowe. That was like a decade ago. There are just those filmmakers who come out with a movie once every blue moon (Tarantino, Malick) but when they do, you bet your ass it's a labor of love.

Weir always had a talent for focusing on humanity, and he has a way of making his characters grounded to being human, exposing both the strengths and weaknesses in a manner that human beings ought to be portrayed. In THE WAY BACK, we see a ragtag group of POWs who escape from a Siberian gulag (prison) during the second world war. We observe how different elements stand in the way of their freedom, and how men, historically theorized to be animals, descend into their basic instincts. But THE WAY BACK is no VAN DAMIEN'S LAND nor TEMPTATION ISLAND (Oh that Joey Gosengfiao camp classic!); instead, most of the moral debates are in theory, being mentally jousted by the characters. "Will they eat the other man in the event of food shortage?" sort of pondering abounds the film.

All the lead actors have a unique way of making their place in the story: Colin Farrell is pitch-perfect as a Russian hardened murderer; Ed Harris is the quiet american who is the group's intellectual center; Jim Sturgess is the leader of the pack, fully determined to get as far away as possible from Siberia, and; Saoirse Ronan symbolizes innocence, and the lost of it.

You'd expect that the Russians would be the gang's major obstacle to freedom, but no. Instead, and surprisingly, nature and themselves are the only things standing in their way. 

To complement the struggle for survival and the perilous journey, Weir crafts a sweeping vista of the Himalayas and many other exotic locations, and such landscapes take on a life of their own.

So why is THE WAY BACK relevant at all? The title spills the beans. Every sane person who ever encountered being away from their loved ones, especially those who have unsettled issues would want redemption, and this film is all about just that, and what it really means to be a free man (or woman, for Saoirse's sake). 

RATING: 5/5

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