DIRECTOR: Peter Weir
May Contain Spoilers!
“Inspired by real events” Translation: Rumour has it…
To me, no film should open with the words “National Geographic Entertainment”. But this one does and it is a bit of a clue as what going to follow for the next 2 hours and 10 minutes. The plot is simple: Again, a title card gives this away in then opening few seconds, that three men escape from a Siberian Gulag and walk 3000 miles and over the Himalayas into India in 1943. But for a film to last this long, there has to more to it, right?
Wrong. This is what is it says on the tin. A bunch of people walk 3000 miles, take in spectacular landscapes and environments, promote National Geographic, and some don’t make it. Three do; The end. Only it isn’t the end…
The film opens with our hero, Janusz, (Jim Sturgess) being fitted up a spy and his wife having been tortured to testify against him. He ends up in the Gulag and escapes, leading to the afore-mentioned journey, The Way Back as it were. But the ending is pretty much about the beginning, and without giving it away entirely, is LUDICROUS! But that’s all I will say on that subject. On another note, I like Peter Weir’s work, Gallipoli, Witness, The Truman Show and the truly excellent Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World. When Weir approaches a film, he does so without applying his own style as it were and tries to tell the story as the story demands.
This is an admirable approach but its times like this when it all begins to unravel. The story is paper-thin and it rests on Weir’s attention to detail to take us through, but there’s only so much of this travelogue that I can take. This reminds me of the travelogues of the 1950’s, the all but lost Cinerama films and more narrative driven examples such as Around The World In 80 Days, but I’m just not sure that this still works in the 2000’s.
Some films can be told in this classic style, but there isn’t enough going on here that we haven’t already seen, especially the whole Laurence of Arabia segment as they cross the desert. Overall the film is fine, but is almost destroyed by the easiest walk across a mountain range imaginable and the ending which beggars belief. But on a more positive note, Weir’s attention to detail is as good as ever, as are the performances, especially Colin Farrell, riffing on his character from Daredevil, Bullseye and the anchor which is Ed Harris.
Not Weir’s best work but worth a watch, certainly for those looking for more classical cinema.