Complete A-Z list

Way Back, The


Stars: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, Gustaf Skarsgard, Mark Strong, Dejan Angelov, Sally Edwards, Alexandru Potocean

Director: Peter Weir

The impact of films about epic human battles for survival often depends on the strength of the personalities involved. But only Harris of the players here really comes across as a character you can hang on to. He's one of seven prisoners who escape from a Siberian saltmine camp in 1940, and set out for the unlikely haven of Mongolia.

One suffers from night blindness and freezes to death, but the party is boosted back to seven by the arrival of Irena (Ronan) who has escaped from a collective farm. The group is led by Janusz, a Pole (Sturgess), whose wife (Edwards) has been tortured into making false accusations against him. Among his comrades are an American (Harris), a killer (Farrell) and several nonentities who never come to life.

The path to Mongolia is arduous and, when they arrive via desert, scrub and mountain, they discover the country has gone over to the Communists - and decide to head for India.

There are some nice lines earlier in the film: an ex-actor prisoner (Strong) tells Sturgess he was imprisoned for championing the aristocracy. 'You mean,' asks an incredulous Sturgess, 'you got 10 years for a performance in a film?' Strong shrugs. 'I've had better notices.'

The good lines, however, dwindle along with the fugitives' numbers; I seemed to miss out when they came down from five to four, but perhaps I nodded off as the film entered its third hour. In the end, we can only heed the advice proffered by Sturgess to his companions: 'Just keep going...till it's over.'

David Quinlan

Australia/Poland/Bulgaria 2010. UK Distributor: entertainment one. Colour by deluxe.
133 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 18 Dec 2010