The new film from Peter Weir stars an up-and-coming Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Colin Farrell. Set in a Siberian gulag during WWII, the three men are prisoners. The conditions are harsh and their long-term prospects are dim. They are very different personalities but they all want to escape. One night, in a blinding snowstorm so that they cannot be tracked, they make a run for it.
The film is based on the book, The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz. The Polish officer’s account has since been debunked by the BBC but, although it is certainly not his story, there is evidence that it did happen. The journey from Siberia through the deserts of Mongolia to India was long and hazardous and the film’s themes are humanity, will and endurance.
Weir takes a classic approach and tells the story with restraint. The film was shot with Bulgaria and Morocco substituting for Siberia and Mongolia and there is a great sense of physical space and the dangers of the natural environment. The struggle for basic survival, such as finding food and water, provides real drama. Missing are the jolting adrenaline-rush set pieces that are the hallmark of mainstream adventure films. This is traditional film-making and it is a refreshing change.
The Way Back
Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell