DRAMA; 1hr 59min
STARRING: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan
Freedom road: Farrell
The Siberia of director Peter Weir’s The Way Back is a frigid hell, and the Soviet Gulag in which Polish soldier Janusz (Sturgess) is unjustly imprisoned in 1940, after being betrayed by his wife, is its lowest circle. Janusz has every reason to run. And run he does, into the punishing, snowstorm-swept forest in the dead of night with only a band of fellow desperates (Harris and Farrell among them) to rely upon.
The ragtag escapees face a 10,000-kilometre, year-long slog on foot across Mongolia, the Gobi desert, China and over the Himalayas to India in ominously majestic landscapes whose paralysing cold and blistering heat are implacable. Filmed in Bulgaria, Morocco and India with in-the-moment genuineness plainly paramount, Weir’s grim and ponderous adaptation of Slawomir Rawicz’s 1956 book takes care of every gruelling detail. The cast do an heroic job of stripping their characters to their limits in a remarkable journey that is every kind of endurance, not the least of which, alas, is its drawn-out length. Dear God! Are we there yet?