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The Way Back (3 stars)

Heavy on pretty Lawrence of Arabia-type spectacle but light on significant character development

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The Way Back

(12A) 133min

Australian filmmaker Peter Weir (Master and Commander, The Truman Show) defies most prison escape movie conventions to make a film that is heavy on pretty Lawrence of Arabia-type spectacle but light on significant character development. It’s an adaptation of Slavomir Rawicz’s novel The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom about a group of people locked away in labour camps in Siberia. There has always been mystery over the book, as some believe that Rawicz was one of the men who escaped from Siberia while others believed he just heard about the men, but Weir doesn’t dwell on this mystery at all, indeed the characters in this film have a distinct air of fiction about them.

A powerful opening scene sees Janusz (Jim Sturgess) informed upon by his tortured wife. When Janusz arrives in Siberia he meet a myriad of characters, most importantly an American engineer (Ed Harris) and a hardened thug (Colin Farrell). These scenes are often confusing and have the air of any American prison tale with men trying their best to prove themselves. The testosterone battles are not even very exciting and the decision to escape doesn’t come soon enough. Weir eschews all escape and chase clichés (there’s no The Great Escape style planning or The Fugitive style chase), it’s about the landscapes and backdrops. They provide a great diversion away from the poor dialogue and the bluntly heroic characters.

General release from Sun 26 Dec.

The Way Back trailer

The Way Back

  • 3 stars
  • 2010
  • US
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Peter Weir
  • Cast: Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, Dragoş Bucur, Gustaf Skarsgård

Bluntly heroic prison-escape drama relating the story of an epic jailbreak by a group of men from a Siberian gulag and their subsequent trek home. Scenic and powerful, but poorly scripted and light on the characterisation.

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