The Way Back (2010)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Way Back</strong> (2010)

(On Cable TV, April 2012) The Way Back is inspired by a story that may or may not be true (check Wikipedia for the controversy), but the premise is the stuff of epic adventure as a few prisoners escape from a Russian Gulag and make their way, on foot, to India –crossing Siberian forests, enormous caverns, the shores of Lake Baikal, vast plains, the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas along the way.  By the time the film ends, it feels like an odyssey, and not solely in the best sense: This is a long, sometimes tedious film.  The characters suffer, the attempted realism of the presentation offers very little levity, and the script doesn’t trouble itself with compelling dialogue.  As a result, The Way Back feels longer than it should, and ends up shortchanging viewers on the “viewing pleasure” aspect.  Still, there’s a lot to like and admire: The scenery is often breathtaking, the actors (including Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan) do a fine job in rough circumstances, the story kills off a number of characters you wouldn’t expect, and the feeling of a difficult odyssey certainly comes across on-screen.  A bit of plot-tightening, more compelling character work (enough so that we can distinguish between the minor players) and some punched-up dialogue may have helped The Way Back rise above the good and become great.

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