Friday, 31 August 2012

Film Review: THE WAY BACK (2010)

The Way Back - poster Director: Peter Weir
Writers: Peter Weir (screenplay), Keith R. Clarke (screenplay), Slavomir Rawicz (novel “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom”)
Running time: 127 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 12

Genre: Adventure/Drama
UK Release date: 21st January 2011

Watched on DVD Friday 31st August 2011.


This is one of those films I have been meaning to watch for a while now. I always like a film based on a true story, as this one is; somehow it makes the action on screen more real to me. Although a little over-long, I must say I did find this quite an inspiring tale. Here’s a very brief summary before I give you my thoughts.

The Way Back - 6 When a Polish man Janusz Wieszczek is thrown into prison in 1940 on charges that are, let’s say, dubious to say the least; he is sent to Siberia. Here he is put to work in a labour camp cutting trees and preparing logs. After an incident with one of the guards, he is sent to work in the mine; effectively a death-sentence. All this time he is talking to several others about getting out. They have a rough idea where they are and have worked out that if they head South they can make it to Mongolia. On the night of a big storm a group that includes Janusz, Valka, Mr. Smith (an American), Voss, Tomasz, Kazik and Zoran make their bid for freedom. Heading south and using to storm to cover their trail they soon lose the prison guards. They lose one of their number to the cold, but press on. They are joined by a girl, Irena, who seems to have a bit of a shady past, but they take her with them anyhow. They eventually make it to Mongolia but realise that Communism has reached there as well. Their only option is to cross the Gobi Desert to Tibet and finally the Himalayas into India. Who will make it? Well, you probably guessed it, I’m not going to tell you here or the Spoiler Police (Soviet Division) will be sending me to Siberia (again).

The Way Back - 5 A really well made film about an epic journey; Peter Weir is good at this kind of thing and this is a good example of his work. A nice musical score by Burkhard von Dallwitz complements the visuals with quite anthemic themes, particularly towards the end. All the performances were very good; particularly Jim Sturgess as Janusz, Colin Farrell as Valka, Ed Harris as Mr. Smith, Saoirse Ronan as Irena and Mark Strong as Khabarov. Honourable mentions must go to; Gustaf Skarsgård as Voss, Alexandru Potocean as Tomasz, Sebastian Urzendowsky as Kazik and Dragos Bucur as Zoran.

The Way Back - 1 There is a bit of a spoiler at the beginning of the film where the audience is told how many make it to India which does take a little of the impact away from the film. You find yourself wondering just when various cast members might either meet their demise or decide to take another path. It’s a distraction I could have done without. The film is a bit too long and there is a lot of time spent in just getting out of Russia which, I felt, could have been better spent in crossing the Himalayas (just my personal preference). Over all though I did find it quite inspiring that such a journey could be made and I felt quite elated at the end. I may not watch it again, but I’m glad I gave it at least one viewing. Worth a look!.

SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED.

My score: 7.7/10

IMDb Score: 7.3/10 (based on 42,826 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 66/100: (Based on 33 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

The Way Back - 9 Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75/100 (based on 122 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 70/100 ‘Liked it’ (based on 29,977 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

[first lines]
[in Polish, using English subtitles]
Interrogator: [presents pen to sign confession]
Janusz: No.
Interrogator: Bring in the witness.
Janusz's Wife, 1939: [brought in]
Interrogator: Do you know this man? His name?
Janusz's Wife, 1939: Janusz Wieszczek.
Interrogator: Witness, what's your relationship with this man?
Janusz's Wife, 1939: [crying] I am his wife.
Interrogator: Accused, do you confirm this?
Janusz's Wife, 1939: Yes.
Interrogator: Witness, what do you have to say about the accused?
Janusz's Wife, 1939: [agonizing] From his conversation, I have come to know he is critical of the Party, especially the leader of the Soviet people, Comrade Stalin.
Janusz: What have they done to you?

The Way Back - 3 Mr. Smith: Kindness. That will kill you here.

Valka: Prison is okay. Debt is bad. But there are many prisons, they don't find me.
Zoran: What about America?
Valka: Oh, it's not for me, freedom. I wouldn't know what to do with it, I swear to God.

Janusz: [eating snake] Tastes like chicken.
Zoran: Yeah. A big black poisonous chicken with no legs.

The Way Back - 8 [last lines]
Man: Where have you come from?
Janusz: Siberia.
Man: Siberia?
Religious man: [speaks to crowd in unknown language]
Man: And how did you come, sir?
Janusz: We walked.
Man: Walked?
[crowd noise]

The Way Back - 2 LINKS:
Official Site:

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