Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, Dragos Bucur, Alexandru Potocean, Gustaf Skarsgård, Mark Strong, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Zahary Baharov, Sally Edwards, Igor Gnezdilov, Dejan Angelov, Stanislav Pishtalov, Mariy Grigorov
Written by: Peter Weir, Keith R. Clarke, based on a novel by Slavomir Rawicz
Directed by: Peter Weir
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent content, depiction of physical hardships, a nude image and brief strong language
Running Time: 133
Date: 09/03/2010
IMDB

The Way Back (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Best Feet Forward

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Australian director Peter Weir turns in this wartime adventure, following up his excellent Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). Both movies look like they could have been somber, self-important epic slogs, but instead they're both sleek, rousing, old-fashioned adventure movies, focusing on the relationships between men, and taking a cue from old time studio filmmakers like Howard Hawks.

During WWII, Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is arrested and thrown into a Siberian gulag. With the help of more experienced inmates such as Valka (Colin Farrell) and "Mr. Smith" (Ed Harris, seven prisoners manage a successful escape into the woods. Along the way, they pick up a runaway girl, Irena (Saoirse Ronan), despite worries that she will slow them down. Against all odds, they survive the harsh, freezing elements and complete the long trek south to the Mongolian border. Unfortunately, circumstances are against them, and they discover that they must keep walking, through Mongolia and Tibet and into India, across the dry, brutal flatlands. How long can this ragtag band stay alive?

This one is arguably less fun than Weir's previous movie, mainly because of the disturbing imagery (i.e. starvation, sickness, death, etc.) that inherently goes with prison movies and wilderness survival movies. But Weir makes it all bearable with his general swiftness and tone. The actors follow suit, with warm performances from everyone involved, especially Farrell as a dangerous, but boisterous misfit. In the end, teamwork, sharing, and kindness win out over violence and cruelty. The movie received one lone Oscar nomination, for Best Makeup.

Image Entertainment released a brilliant-looking Blu-Ray with only a making-of featurette and a trailer, but hopefully it will be enough to entice people to discover this overlooked movie.

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