Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Way Back

Australian director Peter Weir ('Witness', 'The Truman Show', 'Dead Poets Society', 'The Mosquito Coast', 'Master and Commander') directed this powerful, emotional, and inspiring film based on a true story of a group of men plotting an escape from a Siberian prison camp during World War II.  Besides the obvious problem of escaping their captors, they have a 4,000 mile journey ahead of them, crossing mountains and deserts, where the extreme weather conditions and lack of food and water is their worst enemy.  The cast includes the always watchable Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess, and Mark Strong.

I couldn't help but feel that I've seen this movie before.  It's 'The Great Escape' meets 'Survivor' meets 'The Lord of the Rings'. (Well, kind of).  And it plays out in a fairly predictable, formulaic way.  But, the performances are so strong and their journey is so intense that it is still absolutely worth seeing.  At almost 2 hours and 15 minutes it could have felt long, but it didn't at all.  I was completely entranced and blown away by the wills of these men just to survive.  It will make you grateful for what you have and what you don't have to go through, and made me feel particularly bad about complaining to myself a few hours earlier about how cold my 20 minute walk to the theater was.  It's hard to imagine enduring much, much, much worse conditions for months.  Even the cast looked like they had a pretty rough shoot.  (But, to be fair, I didn't bring a hat on my journey.  I mean, not even earmuffs!)

Despite the fact this film just opened wide last Friday, it opened in L.A. on 12/29 so it still qualifies as a 2010 release.  So it looks like my Top 26 just became a Top 27.

Grade: A-


  1. I maintain that you can get used to the cold. It was a balmy 30* or something today and I went hatless!

  2. Bri, was it unbearable to watch in parts? Sounds like a move not to be missed (especially with an A- grade), but if it's got torture scenes and brutality, I don't think I'll be able to handle it. Much as I adore Ed Harris.....

  3. Oh, speaking of brutal, but bearable to watch (at least for me... and you KNOW what a total light-weight I am), I was SO proud of myself for not freaking out one bit watching Harry Brown. In fact, I loved it. I enjoyed every frame of that film (even the tough scenes). To me, vigilantes rock. David was shocked I was so cool with it all. It was my kind of film! Who knew? I know you're planning a tribute to Johnny Depp week sometime. Will you add a tribute to Michael Caine week to your line-up? The man can do no wrong on screen in my eyes.

  4. It really wasn't graphic. The most unbearable parts are man vs. nature. Mother Nature can be a tough adversary! Ed Harris is the greatest. I met him once and he couldn't have been nicer in person.

    I'm glad you loved 'Harry Brown', Nina. I've seen plenty of vigilante films with the exact same format (e.g. 'The Brave One' with Jodie Foster, 'Death Wish' with Charles Bronson', 'Gran Torino' with Clint Eastwood') but this was my favorite. And that's largely due to Michael Caine. He is one of the most watchable actors, and yes, I would love to do a Michael Caine tribute one day soon. I have many lesser known favorites with him. Good idea!