Monday, April 4, 2011

The Way Back (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Way Back

"The Way Back" is the new Peter Weir film starring Jim Sturgess, Colin Ferrell and Ed Harris. It is loosely based on a memoir of the same name by Slawomir Rawicz. Rawicz was a Polish Pow imprisoned in a soviet camp in Siberia in 1940. With six of his fellow inmates, Rawicz escaped during a blizzard, walking some four thousand miles into Tibet by foot. There has been apparent debate whether this, in fact, happened. In 2009, evidence came forth to show that the escape was not  Rawicz but Witold Glinski. Whatever the case the, story remains incredible and compelling.

Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe) plays Janusz, a Polish man imprisoned for conspiracy. Colin Farell plays Valka. A Russian inmate whose dialogue bits  are a bit like Mickey Rourke in "Iron Man 2. With his tattoos and monosyllables, I was half waiting for the electrified whips. Ed Harris does a good turn as the enigmatic Mr. Smith. His scorched wrinkled face is a study in hard Earth. As a physical persona, Mr. Smith would make the hard-bitten photographer Walker Evans wince. There is also a solid performance by Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones).

Director Peter Weir is masterful in giving us a sense of alien danger in hostile territory as in the epic "Master & Commander". Weir knows how to move the camera, be it in the claustrophobic mines or the vast polar reaches.  

The best portions of "The Way Back" are the ones that put nature center-stage. Where man is up against it to fight like wolves for scaps of meat of the earth herself is a huge sandy leviathan driven to hurl the men into nothing if they can't keep up the relentless march of one foot in front of the other.

The closeups of the bitten sun-scorched faces, namely of Ed Harris and Saoirse Ronan, are quintessential portraits of what it is to be human in the fight for survival. And although the pacing is not pitch perfect there is a suspenseful poignancy to the film, such as the arrival of Tibet after vast stretches of barren land that rival any Speilberg cliffhanger.

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