The Way Back (Blu-ray)
In 1941 three men walked out of the Himalayas into India. They survived a 4000-mile walk to freedom after escaping prison in Siberia. THE WAY BACK is their amazing story of survival through determination and perseverance.
In 1939 Hitler invaded Poland from the West and Stalin invaded from the East, imprisoning anyone who was thought to be a political threat or oppose the communist party. One certain labor camp deep inside Siberia held many of these unfortunate wrongfully accused. In order to hide their tracks, a total of seven men escape during a blizzard. Knowing the most about survival in the wilderness, Janusz (Jim Sturgess) a driven young Polish man leads the escape. He is accompanied by a fellow Polish countryman Kazik (Sebastian Urzendowsky) who is stricken with night blindness from the lack of proper nourishment, a Polish artist and cook Tomasz (Alexandru Potocean), Zoran (Dragos Bucur) a “funny man” accountant from Yugoslavia, a Latvian Priest Voss (Gustaf Skarsgard) and a secretive older American named Mr. Smith (Ed Harris). Tagging along is a dangerous Russian criminal and murderer Valka (Colin Farrell) who still believes in his country and leader that imprisoned him. Along the way, they pick up Irena (Saoirsa Ronan) a young Polish girl also fighting to survive. With the very minimal amount of supplies they must find a way to battle the cold, heat, hunger, thirst, bugs and other natural obstacles as they quietly travel through a handful of nations without being seen. Obviously not everyone will survive this treacherous journey.
After watching THE WAY BACK I had to Google maps the journey to see with my own eyes the distance these people went as they travelled through Russia, Mongolia, China and India. It is literally a jaw-dropping inspiring fight they put up with little to no energy or strength.
The film succeeds in giving us many diverse characters with distinct personalities. United and working together for their common goal of freedom, the superb acting helps strengthen the bond of these men from different backgrounds who otherwise would probably not be friends. The entire cast does their part to bring their characters to life where other actors may have failed. Surprisingly strong, Jim Sturgess handles the leading man responsibility with cool natural demeanor. Carrying the weight as the seasoned pro, Ed Harris gives a wise gravity to the character, group and film that only he could do. Colin Farrell brings a certain likability to a man that by nature is a bad guy. He has recently been giving small but great performances and he delivers once again.
With gorgeous scenery of sweeping landscapes including, mountains, forests, rivers and deserts, director Peter Weir along with his cinematographer Russell Boyd proves why he is one of the greats still working in film. I only wished he would work more often as his last couple of films was 2003’s MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD and 1998’s THE TRUMAN SHOW. Earning the lone Oscar nomination by detailing every sun burn and bug bite the make-up was brutally impressive. But the one technical aspect that stood out above the rest for me was the wonderful musical score by Burkhard von Dallwitz. It is the unseen lifeblood for the visual beauty of the film.
Little details about how they used the land to survive is a key component that makes the film good but unfortunately is also what is lacking at certain moments keeping the film from being great. The story sometimes jumps time or glosses over certain obstacles without full explanation. Maybe it’s the fault of the grandness of the story that creates an incessant need to understand how they made the journey even when giving plenty of fascinating information that could never fully be captured in a two-hour film. While many details were explained sometimes too much time was spent on wide shots of the men walking rather than furthering the relationship with the characters and achieving a larger emotional connection.
Nonetheless, THE WAY BACK is an amazingly inspirational story during WWII that is rarely shared. The hardships endured over the vast beautiful country lands without any food, water and shelter is worth the watch alone but the visual achievements technically will be the ultimate moving force that make the picture believable and awe-inspiring.
Video: (2.35:1 1080p High Definition) A very impressive picture capturing the beauty of the many traveled landscapes and seasons.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The natural sounds and quietness from nature are pristine with appropriate levels from the magnificent score.
The Journey Of The Journey (30:57): As the lone feature on the Blu-ray, this making-of feature is fairly thorough with interviews from the actors, beautiful location shots and impressive set designs.