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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The way back
Many years ago I travelled by train along a stretch of the Trans-Siberian Railway from Novosibirsk to Irkutsk on the southern shore of Lake Baykal not long after reading Slavomir Rawicz's book "The Long Walk" and I vividly remember that Siberia was a region of endless space, where there were no signs of human habitation for hours on end and vast dense pine forests...
Published on 9 April 2012 by David Rowland

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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shrunken
Weir makes no claims to this story - about escapees from a Siberian gulag, and their 4,000-mile trek over the Himalayas - being true as he tells it. So it's fitting that the chameleonic craftsman has created something almost entirely unambiguous: none of Master and Commander's moral tug-of-war; none of the fable-like metaphor of The Truman Show; none of the ghostly...
Published on 23 Jan 2011 by R. J. Harvey


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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The way back, 9 April 2012
By 
David Rowland - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
Many years ago I travelled by train along a stretch of the Trans-Siberian Railway from Novosibirsk to Irkutsk on the southern shore of Lake Baykal not long after reading Slavomir Rawicz's book "The Long Walk" and I vividly remember that Siberia was a region of endless space, where there were no signs of human habitation for hours on end and vast dense pine forests stretched from horizon to horizon for hundreds of miles. I tried to picture what it must have been like for a small party of people with hardly any food or suitable clothing walking across this region for months on end in the middle of winter in temperatures up to minus 30 degrees below zero and then walking through the scorching heat of the Gobi Desert and climbing over the huge peaks of the Himalayas. It is scarcely comprehensible that a few men did manage to escape this way from Russia's Gulags and eventually reach freedom.

Peter Weir's magnificent, enthralling and moving film tells the story of a group of prisoners from a Russian prison camp north of Lake Baykal who escaped and walked south for 4,000 miles across Siberia, Mongolia, China and Tibet and the survivors of the journey eventually reached India.

The authenticity of Rawicz's account has been widely questioned but there is no doubt that a few Poles and others did manage to escape and reach freedom in this way and some joined the free Polish forces and fought against the German's who ironically were fighting the Russians.

It was these same Russians who had condemned thousands of Poles and others to long stretches in the Gulags on trumped up charges and when the Germans invaded Russia in June 1941, it suited the Russians to release many Poles from the camps to fight alongside them against the Nazis.

Poland got precious little from being victors in the second world war. They were the first country to be invaded by the Germans, they were stabbed in the back by the Russians soon afterwards, the conditions in occupied Poland especially for the Jews were horrendous, over 4,000 Polish officers were slaughtered by the forerunners of the KGB who tried to blame the Germans for the crime, the ever loyal Poles were ignored or treated with contempt by their American and British allies and the Russians refused to help the Polish resistance fighters during the Warsaw Rising in 1944. They were promised free elections after the war but the Russians had no intention of honouring this promise and Poland became a satelitte state of the Russian empire for decades to come. It is only now that they are enjoying the belated freedom and democracy that they so richly deserved.

Weir made the film by using Bulgaria as the setting for Siberia and Morocco as the setting for Mongolia and he laudably showed great respect towards those Poles that he and members of the cast met who were in Russian prison camps or were relatives of such people by taking great care to accurately reconstruct conditions in the camps and to be as truthful as possible in the circumstances.

The scenery is breathtaking and the exterior photography is superb. Jim Sturgess and Ed Harris in the main roles are particularly impressive and the whole production is brilliantly staged and the story stays in the memory for a long time afterwards.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Way Back, 23 Jan 2012
By 
R. S. Palmer "Richard Palmer" (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
I enjoyed the film but not a patch on the book which I couldn't put down and left me near to tears at the end. Will watch it again now that I have read the book but I feel a lot of the original story was not covered.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars March Or Die, 24 Dec 2011
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
This is a film about endurance in pretty dismal circumstances so if you are seeking laughs, thrills or excitement then you are going to be sorely disappointed. Escaping from a Soviet Gulag the heroes of this piece have to march through taiga, desert, mountain and just about everything in between; and they do so not by ingenious device or cunning plan but by putting one foot in front of the other for 4000 miles. I found it a stirring tale but then I liked moor-running at School so am probably deranged.

There has been some excitement about whether the story is true (it is based on Slavomir Rawicz's book): it didn't seem necessary to me that it was or was not true, but be warned if this does matter to you you may want to consider before watching. There is also some concern (sometimes by the same critics) that the central role is not more charismatic. This is however a film about walking which is of its very nature a slow and steady form of movement. It does not require a John Rambo or James Bond.
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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shrunken, 23 Jan 2011
By 
R. J. Harvey (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
Weir makes no claims to this story - about escapees from a Siberian gulag, and their 4,000-mile trek over the Himalayas - being true as he tells it. So it's fitting that the chameleonic craftsman has created something almost entirely unambiguous: none of Master and Commander's moral tug-of-war; none of the fable-like metaphor of The Truman Show; none of the ghostly near-surrealism of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The performances are very fine across the board. Farrell (as violent gang-leader Valka) and Harris (as the grizzled American Mr Smith) stand out particularly. Like Robert Duvall or Michael Caine, Harris has developed a face marked with history, etched by happiness and hardship. Like all the players, they enjoy a solid, unfussy script, and hurl themselves into native tongue with admirable vigour.

My main issue with the film is probably lying on the cutting room floor. The work of Terrence Malick, John Hillcoat, Andrew Dominik et al shows that there are fine visionary, worldly, painterly directors out there producing work that is both crowd-pleasing and patient. The quality and relevance of the scenes in The Way Back are not in question - so why do so many of them feel truncated, and so hurried? For the escape itself to burst out of nothing makes sense as this could be argued to mirror the sudden confusion of the escapees and the guards. But too many sequences thereafter feel cursory, silencing their own reverberations. Too many shots of the vastness of this chilly hemisphere are all too brief, stealing away that vital sense of dismal isolation.

Perhaps this was intentional. Perhaps Weir wanted to focus on the brutal close-up, rather than the romantic long shot. But if this is at the expense of the expanse, then I feel it does a disservice to the magnificence of the 4,000-mile task, and we're left with something that feels just a bit too small.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, perhaps not quite as good as it could have been, 23 Jun 2011
By 
Cuban Heel "Neil Schiller" (Liverpool) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
I wanted to see this film for a while as I caught a trailer for it and thought it looked great. I finally got to watch it the other day and I enjoyed it, it was pretty good. It was well acted and had an authentic feel to it. Was it as good as I expected? Well, not quite.

I agree with some of the other comments that the story lacked a little bit of a personal element which stopped me being as gripped as I might have been. The beginning was a little bit choppy and if you let your attention wander slightly you might have missed some of the details that made more sense later. It felt like a few scenes were edited to bring the length of the movie down and it didn't flow quite as well as you'd expect. And I wasn't that keen on the ending. Not the actual ending itself, but the montage bit which suggests the main character keeps on walking (metaphorically) until the end of the cold war.

Overall it was a decent film. Good enough, but falling just short of being really good.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tinkering with Rawicz, 6 Jun 2011
By 
DB "davidbirkett" (Co. Kildare, Ireland (but born & raised Liverpool, UK)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
Slavomir Rawicz's book "The Long Walk" (on which the film is based) works, and works well, because it purports to be true (although its veracity is disputed). It doesn't try to be a work of fiction - no contrived drama, no parables on the human condition. So why fictionalise it? Or if you are going to, why not do it properly? Instead Peter Weir has largely stuck to the story but has changed most of the names (except for "Mr Smith" which is probably not the character's true name anyway). And he has completely changed one character - Colin Farrell's Russian gangster is very well played and certainly adds to the drama, but Rawicz would definitely not have accepted such a companion.

Having said all that, I enjoyed the film. The acting is pretty good and it is superbly shot - but even there I think Weir missed a trick by cutting out the Himalayan scenes in the story. If he thought the film was long enough already he could have seriously pruned the section in the Siberian forests.

So read the book first, then watch the film and then read the Wikipedia entry on Slavomir Rawicz.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Film!, 2 Jun 2011
This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
What a great film, kept me interested all the way through and envoked emotions just like all good WWII related films. A story of courage and determination that highlights just how fortunate we are today....

its quite a long film, however i never became bored or uniterested for a second!

great cast, great acting, great job!

one of the best films ive seen this year!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Story, 1 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
Good story and stunning scenery/cinematography. Not at all sure what part of Russia, Colin Farrell's Irish accent is based-on, obviously West of the Urals. Once past that o'glitch, the story draws you in and a film which you could well happily watch again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An inspirational tale of physical & spiritual endurance, 4 July 2011
By 
Elke Notlit (Germany) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
I first came across THE LONG WALK - and the controversy about its veracity - several years ago on Radio 4. So when I heard Peter Weir was basing a film on the story I knew I'd have to see it - even if I've waited till DVD.

The result is an engaging and visually impressive, if ultimately flawed, work.

The most striking thing is its cinematography. It's no wonder that THE WAY BACK was part funded by National Geographic. There are some beautiful landscape shots photographed by Russell Boyd, with director Weir referencing everything from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA to his own GALLIPOLI. It's not just landscapes, however - elsewhere there are other striking images, such as the snow masks cut from wood.

It's also an exhausting film. The pace is often elegiac and as the characters walk from Siberia to India, this viewer felt worn to her joints (especially in the gruelling desert scene). It's hard to imagine that human beings could endure such privitations. The result is deeply absorbing; I felt drawn into the narrative

Nevertheless, the film does have its faults. Ed Harris and Jim Sturgess are both watchable but the supporting cast are not well drawn enough. I didn't even know their names, a problem exacerbated by their physical similarities. I also felt the film was let down by the ending which is weak and rather unsatisfying. The result of these criticisms is that THE WAY BACK isn't as emotional as it should be.

That aside, this is an inspiration tale of physical and spiritual endurance; one to watch when you feel like getting away from the rat-race, or are in quiet and reflective mood.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth it..., 9 April 2014
By 
Mr. Matthew Munroe "Worldasleep" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Way Back [DVD] (DVD)
Having read the excellent book "The Long Walk" by Slavomir Rawicz (a fantastic account of hardship, pain, suffering and death and a phenomenal escape from the tyranny of Soviet Russia) I decided to give the film a go. I will admit I did not start it with the highest of expectations, but my doubts were more an proved. I will not go into to much detail, I don't want to spoil the amazing story for anyone. But I will say that there are very few points at which this film resembles the book it is based on. The number of characters, the start of their horrendous trial and the end point of their desperate struggle for survival match those in the true story of the book. Everything else seems to be pure, Hollywood fabrication. Not only is that disappointing for any cinema goer who happens to have read the book, but I feel it is also immensely damaging to the reputation of the brave and courageous men who made this journey all those years ago and lost so many years of their young lives.

If you find he subject interesting (as I do) and want to investigate further, read the book. Or if you do want a good film in the same vein and don't mind relying on subtitles, go for "As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me". The film follows the book almost perfectly.
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The Way Back [DVD]
The Way Back [DVD] by Peter Weir (DVD - 2011)
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