You know when a trailer just doesn’t grip you? That’s what they’re for, right? To give you a taster of the film. And if it’s a bad film, the trailer’s job is to hide that fact until after you’ve paid your money.
The trailer for The Way Back is make the movie look boring. It makes it look like a four hour epic with bad Russian accents, frost bite and moments of campfire revelations. So, boring, then.
Lucky for The Way Back, the trailer doesn’t do it justice. It’s actually very good.
So, from the trailer we ascertain that there are a group of men in a Siberian gulag. The kind of place where bits drop off the convicts in the snow. The kind of place where getting knifed in your sleep feels like parole. The kind of prison where Charles Bronson would be beaten to death for having little tiny eyes. So, it’s a nasty place. And like any nasty place, our small group of heroes (spies, murderers and thieves) want out. So they get out. End of film? Not bloody likely! With an astounding lack of taxis available and only one direction they can go to evade capture, the intrepid group decide to walk…to India.
For those of you with the same geographical grasp as myself, that’s a long way. Google Maps is your friend.
You think we can all take a shit separately next time?
Our convicts are played by a United Nations of actors with only two (Angjelov and
Gnezdilov) being of the right nationality for their roles. Now, you’re waiting for me to say the other three are crap, aren’t you? Sorry, but I can’t. By golly, they all do a fantastic job of. Even Colin Farrell, who has a hard time speaking Irish half the time, manages to convince me. I’ll not mention Ed Harris, because he’s a cheater. An American playing the only American character is just lazy, Ed. Lazy! Good job he’s a brilliant actor or I’d have to have words (or get someone else to, because Ed’s not a man to be messed with).
The rest of the actors are as impressive whether well known or not. Sturgess does a brilliant job of tying all the characters together. Saoirse Ronan, however, who is remembered for being forgettable in The Lovely Bones does exactly the same thing here. That is, nothing. Rather than a character, she spends most of her time telling the characters about each other so the audience can listen in. She’s so bad that Colin Farrell is better. Actually, he’s bloody good. Then again, he plays nutters quite well. But he plays this one so well that when his final screen moment arrives, I actually liked him. I actually felt sorry for him. I forgot that he played Bullseye like a nonce in Daredevil. I forgot about Miami Vice. I forgot that he stole Jeff Bridges’ career in Crazy Heart. I forgot about Ballykissangel.
I can think of no higher accolade. A film that makes me like Farrell is a rare gem indeed.
“Who forgot to put Saoirse back in the props box, again?”
At a little over two hours the run time isn’t such a chore, despite most of the time being spent walking. I was expecting to take naps in the middle and wake up without having missed anything. I was wrong. Not that it’s a constant action ride, you understand, but there’s always something to see. The camera gets you in with the characters when you really need it, but isn’t afraid to pull back, letting you just look at the countries these guys are walking through. You definitely feel the distance. Good old Mr Weir! (Peter, that is, the director).
It’s not my kind of film. I like my movies to distract me from life with explosions and robots and so forth. I don’t want to discuss the delicate socio-historical subplot while swilling a glass of sherry. I want to make a single statement. Good film/Bad film, and do it with a beer. Luckily, The Way Back manages to do that rare job of entertaining me while being cultural (and stuff). It also manages to make me give a crap about the characters.
Therefore, my friends, brandishing my Tuborg, I will make my statement.