THE WAY BACK
DIRECTOR: Peter Weir
CAST: Jim Sturgess,Ed Harris,Colin Farrell,Saoirse Ronan
This film is based on the book The Long Walk,apparently a true account of escape from the Soviet Gulag camp in Siberia and a 4,000-mile trek to India and freedom,which has since been debunked. Even if one were to ignore that,the story of this walk,through the cold wastelands of Siberia and the vast deserts of Mongolia,to the rugged Himalayas,should be a fascinating one. Instead,the great landscapes apart,one never really feels involved with any of the characters of The Way Back.
The film also treats them as secondary to the harsh beauty of nature on full display. There are shots of them against the sun,against the snow,against the mountains,against the sand,against the river,against the stream,against almost everything but each other.
The screenplay,co-written by Weir,never really gets up close and personal with this fascinating array of characters from various spheres of Soviet influence,convicted to the Gulag camp for myriad reasons. The escape from the prison is surprisingly easy just the matter of a dash across the barbed wire and once they are on foot,there is no tension. Neither over the meagre,
fast-depleting food stocks,nor water; none when thoughts crop up about cannibalism; and none when they lose their way. Even when a young,attractive girl joins this hardened group,life goes on as usual. The violent,restless Farrell provides some frisson,but he doesnt stick around for a long time.
The peril of the journey never really hits you,only the length of it. And since nobody seems to be giving them a chase,you wonder if the Soviet might have really gone after the bunch of six had they put their tent in the middle of Mongolias Gobi desert.
The dialogue is perfunctory,the jokes lame,and till the girl Irene strikes a relationship with Mr Smith,the American who lost his son,it is largely without a heart. A story about survival that feels and looks like a boy scouts trip gone wrong.