My cinema visits have been less than usual as of late, mostly because there's very little out that I want to see. I'd rather watch paint dry than see Trom, and Love and Other Drugs looks just as useless. I've seen Harry Potter more times than is acceptable for a normal twenty two year old girl, so I recently went to see The Way Back instead.
A military officer named Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is hauled up for questioning, on the grounds that he is a spy. He denies this and refuses to give a false confession, so his wife is tortured into confessing, and Janusz is sent to a Gulag, which is a hard labour camp. He is given twenty years; most prisoners barely survive a few years. The prisoners are severely malnourished, and Weir doesn't shy away from showing the harsh environment in which they live; desperately scrambling for bit of dirty food dropped on the ground, exchanging anything of value for an hard lump of stale bread.
There is nothing particularly spectacular about Janusz; he is not a 'hero', and seems to have unwillingly fallen into the position of 'leader', if there is one. Colin Farrell is a self centered criminal, and Ed Harris keeps himself to himself. The prisoners have little impact on one another, if only stopping a moment to bury the dead. They escaped not as firm friends, but merely because they have individual reasons for wanting to get out. The lack of loving comradery makes it an even more realistic tale; this is not a happy situation in which they all bond and become life long pals. It is simply a story of pure survival, and the harshness of reality, and some terrific acting - particularly Colin Farrell - makes this a thought provoking film that, whether really true or not, will stay with you nonetheless. There's something really spine tingling about seeing a birds eye view of a group of tiny black dots crawling along at an aching pace through an endless view of nothing but sand. Its not for everyone, and does tick on a little, but I can't recommend it enough.