In our culture -- the climbing and outdoor culture that is -- there is an amazing appetite for epic adventure stories. People love films like Seven Years in Tibet, Alive, Lawrence of Arabia, or even less realistic films like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Three Kings.
What do all of these films have in common?
In each of them there is a an epic adventure that is uniquely connected to the environment. There is often cultural conflict and usually there is extended travel by difficult means. These types of films tend strike a cord among outdoor adventurers. They affect us because we intentionally seek out struggle and strife in far off places.
The Way Back is an absolutely stellar adventure movie. It is exactly the type of film that engages the outdoor adventurist the most. The story -- inspired by a true story -- deals with an epic journey, minor cultural conflict and significant wilderness travel.
Janusz, a young Polish officer played by Jim Sturgess, is held for interrogation by the Soviet Secret Police. When he will not admit to working as a foreign spy, they torture his wife into revealing him as such and send him to a POW camp in Siberia. Conditions in the camp are absolutely atrocious and Janusz isn't sure that he will survive one year, much less the twenty years of his sentence.
Before long, Janusz creates alliances with a number of other prisoners including the hardened criminal Valka (Colin Farrell), Polish artist Tomasz (Alexandru Potocean), a Latvian priest Voss (Gustaf Skarsgård), a Pole suffering from night blindness Kazik (Sebastian Urzendowsky), and an accountant from Yugoslavia Zoran (Dragos Bucur). Together the ragtag crew of misfit prisoners escape the prison and lead by Janusz, they begin to travel on foot overland to freedom. The problem and the central storyline of the movie is that true freedom is nowhere nearby. The team must travel across Siberia, Mongolia, and Tibet to find freedom in India. In other words, they must walk 4000 miles through the wilderness including a traverse of both the Gobi Desert and the Himalaya before they can say they truly escaped.
Director Peter Weir hasn't been heavily involved in filmmaking since his 2003 epic, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but he clearly has a love for the adventure genre. He is also responsible for films like The Mosquito Coast, Witness, and Gallipoli. Additionally he has been the directoral mind behind dramas such as Dead Poet's Society and the Truman Show.
In The Way Back, one can see a director late in his career with a long filmography as a complete master of his craft. The film is never an edge of your seat thriller, but it is still hard to look away. Weir has created a beautiful adventure that inspires tension from the opening shot to the closing sequence. This masterful storytelling combined with beautiful natural images keeps the audience thoroughly engaged with the characters throughout every second of the film.
The Way Back is a grand movie on a grand campus about grand people. It is exactly the type of film that you should put on your movies to see list right way...
Following is a trailer for The Way Back:
--Jason D. Martin