This week in theaters Peter Weir’s epic The Way Back featuring a stellar ensemble cast with Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan freezing in the Himalayas and scorching across the Siberian desert hits theaters this Friday January 21st. The film is an example of a cinema master at work. Everything about this film was exceptionally well crafted. I guess that’s what happens when the film is lead by a director who has been nominated for six Academy Awards. The film literally takes you on the journey with this group of survivors and engrosses you in their experience — the problem is, is this a journey you want to go on?

Let’s take a look….

The Players:

  • Director: Peter Weir
  • Screenplay Writers: Keith R. Clarke and Peter Weir
  • Novel By: Slavomir Rawicz
  • Cast: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, Colin Farrell, Gustaf Skarsgård, Alexandru Potocean, Mark Strong, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Dragos Bucur
  • Original Music by: Burkhard von Dallwitz
  • Cinematography by: Russell Boyd

The Plot:

Based on the novel, “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” a group of Concentration Camp survivors escape a Siberian gulag and walk over 4000 miles to freedom in India.

The Good:

  • The Acting: Many of us fell in love with Saoirse Ronan when we first saw her in Atonement, and she just keeps on impressing us, over and over again. I could highlight every member of this cast, but the truth is, this is truly an ensemble piece led by Jim Sturgess and Ed Harris, but really it’s about the group. The trick with ensemble casts is that everyone has to be good all the time. Whether it be the actors, the casting director, or Weir’s directions, the entire cast worked wonderfully together and literally carried the film on their weary shoulders. Farrell got a bit pushy with his acting in the start, but once he starts drinking he’s back on track!
  • The Craftsmanship: I would say the cinematography immediately jumps out at you, but the truth is that everything from the use of sound design, to lightly played music, to the make-up, to every detail of the film was extremely well done. There’s no doubt that Weir is an expert filmmaker who surrounds himself with an an exceptional crew.
  • Severity Without Violence: Though this film is extremely serious in nature, the one thing that it’s missing is graphic violence and all I can say is hallelujah! We get what happens when we see an animal, they pull out a knife and then they’re eating, we don’t need any more information than that! What’s nice about this film is that they don’t go for shock value or gory effects in order to make this the experience that it is.

The Good/Bad:

  • The LOOONG Walk: You have to give Weir credit for really making you FEEL like you’ve gone on such an extreme journey with these characters, but it’s not one that is always easy to watch nor enjoyable — though that is the point! This journey was extraordinarily difficult and near impossible, sadly at times the weight of the film rests on your shoulders and makes for a very heavy experience. They did a good job at making the audience a part of the film, I just don’t know if it’s the type of journey people are going to be eager to take.

The Bad:

  • The After Effects: I think this film actually took about 6 minutes of my life just out of pure sadness. As I said, it’s a journey, and it’s well made, but it’s not enjoyable and I found that it stuck with me for sometime after and wouldn’t let me out of that state of mind for some time. Now some people may love this, I respect it, but it just wasn’t for me.

Overall:

This is a powerful film made by some of the finest filmmakers currently working. The craftsmanship is remarkable and the cinematography is stunning.

Rating: 6.5/10

Check out The Way Back in theaters January 21st.

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