It was almost three months ago (November, 2010) when I first heard about Peter Weir's epic tale The Way Back. I was skimming an article about films on the Oscar's radar, and I was surprised to come across a title I hadn't heard about. I looked into it a little further, and I decided it was something I needed to see. As the trend has gone lately, the end of the calendar year brings the most talked about films to theatres everywhere. The Way Back is no exception.
Set during the early stages of World War II, The Way Back follows a group of prisoners as they escape an internment camp and trek over 4,000 miles to freedom. Germany invaded Poland from the west, and Russia invaded it from the east. As we all know, the alliance of communist juggernauts began conquering most of Eastern Europe and Asia. Some of the most brutal prisons in recorded history existed in Siberia. It's no surprise to hear that countless prisoners (whether they deserved imprisonment or not) tried desperately to escape these harsh conditions. Despite many valiant efforts, most of these escapees wound up being caught or freezing to death in the blistering cold. The Way Back tells the rare story of a group of survivors who defeated the odds.
Peter Weir is a highly regarded director. Some may argue that he's a bit over appreciated (me being one of them), but nonetheless his credentials are hard to overlook. Couple this prominent director with an all-star cast (Sturgess, Harris, and Farrell), and you'd figure to have an unforgettable film. That's exactly what many critics and writers anticipated. However, The Way Back is just another run of the mill persecution/survival tale. Far from epic, it's a pretty bland script with a sprinkle of clever dialogue. The film is far from the timeless classic many proclaim it to be.
Almost certain to go unrecognized during tomorrow's Oscar nominations, The Way Back does have a few bright spots. The film contains strong acting and solid character development. Also, its 2 hour and 13 minute runtime is surprisingly easy to sit through. However, the biggest flaw with The Way Back is that it fails to offer any memorable scenes. Thus leaving the film much closer to mediocre than iconic.