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MOVIE REVIEW: The Way Back

Ed Harris and Colin Farrell lead a solid group of actors

A scene from the film "The Way Back."

A scene from the film "The Way Back."

  • A scene from the film "The Way Back."
  • Jim Sturgess as Janusz in "The Way Back."
  • Mark Strong as Khabarov in "The Way Back."
  • A scene from the film "The Way Back."
  • The Way Back
  • A scene from the film "The Way Back."
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You thought 127 Hours was tough on the body, try the endurance of walking 4,000 miles in a few months--with blizzards, sandstorms and in desert heat.

Now, there’s controversy as to how realistic the original story is that this was based on, so I’ll just throw all that talk out the window.

This is the story of a group of guys that escaped a Siberian gulag in the early ’40s. I don’t remember a gulag movie since I saw Gulag on HBO in 1985.

Six-time Oscar-nominated director Peter Weir, who takes his sweet time between movies (his last one was Master and Commander seven years ago), does a fine job with this one.

I’m guessing some people will find it slow at times, but I certainly didn’t. It was shot in Morocco, Bulgaria, and India--and the landscapes and cinematography are amazing.

The cast includes former Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan; she’s a girl that tags along during the journey.

Jim Sturgess, the Paul McCartney lookalike, has another great performance. In fact, the entire cast is filled with actors that I’m never disappointed in.

Ed Harris is the American, whom they only know as Mr. Smith. I hope his performance isn’t forgotten about when next year’s Oscars roll around.

And let’s not forget about Colin Farrell. That guy may be a nutjob in real life (he’s been arrested for drugs, fighting, and heck--he broke up with his co-star from Ondine; that right there is proof he’s crazy).He’s a Russian gangster that the group is wary escaping with, as they’ve seen him stab a person for a sweater while they were all locked up together. Heslowly transforms from the tough guy, to someone that (sort of ) cares about the others, and realizes letting Sturgess make the decisions in order for them to stay alive is probably wise.

Weir co-wrote this script, and I’m surprised I’ve heard a few critics (I’m talking to you, Roger Ebert) say they thought the movie was slow.

Ebert loved Somewhere (named it one of the 10 best this year), which is the slowest movie ever made. This film was just over two hours, and it didn’t seem like it.

At least in this movie, you’re watching the characters walk through some intense weather conditions, and your mind is wondering how your body would endure and what decisions you’d make versus the ones they made. For example, one of them wants to stay at a well they come across for a few days. Another contends that without food, they’ll be too weak in a few days to continue the walk south.

In this entire movie, there was only one scene I didn’t care for. A pack of wolves had an animal they were eating. The group approaches, scares them off, and they drop to their knees and start eating the animal the way the wolves were.I understand what they wanted to get across, but it seemed corny and out of place. These guys were all good about sharing their food and water, and cooking up the various animals they captured. This scene just gave the viewers a chance to see Sturgess’ face, as he looks down in disgust at the gang as they push each other aside for scraps of meat.

This film was painful to watch at times, and heartbreaking. It has an uplifting conclusion, and although it went down a lot of familiar paths, I enjoyed the journey.

I certainly didn’t complain about having to walk across the Fashion Valley mall for the bad parking spot I got earlier in the evening.

This movie gets a B.