The Way Back Blu-ray

In 1942 seven prisoners escaped a Siberian Gulag and walked 4,000 miles to freedom, four of the survivors actually made it India while one returned to the United States. 

Film making 18/25
Video 23/25
Audio 25/25
Bonus Features 5/25
Total 66/100

The Way Back

While the true story behind the tale of The Way Back has basically been debunked the story is still an inspirational and well told tale of seven men who escape a Russian Gulag. Januscz played by Jim Sturgess is a Polish national who is captured by Russian police and interrogated then sent to a remote Siberian prison.

His wife who has apparently been threatened turns him in as a Russian traitor and with his wife’s confession he is sent to a Siberian Gulag. He finds other political prisoners along with the usual gangs of Russian criminals inhabiting the remote prison.

The guards tell the new prisoners that the guards are not the only ones keeping them imprisoned when they first arrive in the cold of the Siberian winter. The Siberian weather and long distances to anything resembling civilization is also against them along with the fact that the only nearby village is also given rewards for turning in escapees.

Januscz meets others who are political prisoners and finds himself in the middle of an odd plot to escape, he meets one prisoner who tells him he knows of a way out. When the groups of seven finally take their chances during a snow storm they have saved some food and supplies and head out into the blinding snow.

Ed Harris plays American Mr. Smith who tried his luck at a better life in 1930’s Russia working on a railroad when his son is killed and he is sent to the Gulag. Valka played by Colin Farrell is a common criminal who has a large debt to a mob boss and wants to escape the retribution of the debt.

The others of the group are in the gulag due to the usual Russian Communist spy accusations and general hatred of anyone not loving mother Russia. The group is at first added one by one when others find out about their potential escape attempt but Valka insists he is needed because he has a knife.

The group escapes during one of the many winter blizzards and using the various talents make their way through the wilderness. Along the way they encounter another escaped fugitive in Irena played by Saoirse Ronan who fled a different prison.

During their 4,000 mile journey three of the group die from dehydration, malnutrition or basically exhaustion and the elements do them in. Valka decides to stay in Russia when the group finds themselves at the border between Russia and Mongolia because he still loves Stalin in his heart.

They also find pictures of Stalin and signs of Communism in Mongolia but a handy burned out temple hides the group nicely for a few days of much needed rest. This unexpected momentary respite follows one after the other that is probably the reason the book that the film was based on was called into question in the first place.

The Way Back film was based on the book The Long Walk by Slawomir Rawicz but the book has been questioned and some of the circumstances have been rebuked. Another person later claimed the book was based on his own tales of escape but even then the circumstances and events are found to be highly questionable.

The things like the group always finding the needed resource or place of hiding just when they need it is a bit of the unbelievable portions of the films story. They also found that people may have actually escaped from similar prisons but there are really no accounts of them in detail.

The film also has a few problems with character interaction along with the plot point portions of the story and the historical accuracy. When things occur that are rather unlikely to save the day yet at other times they die off one by one the story just didn’t work out well enough.

The film was pretty good even with the true nature being questioned and the events that saved the day but it would have been better with more character interaction. The film was ripe for this but they usually did not stray too far from why they were in the Gulag and what will they do when you get home.

The film usually goes from character interaction to interaction with their environment and their immediate survival rather quickly. These are however both at opposite ends of the spectrum with their survival pretty basic but thorough in how they conquer each obstacle.

The character interaction is however pretty basic and usually centers on the actors talking about why they were in Russia or what they are going to do later. The film could have done more character building and interaction like other similar films that are centered mainly on the individuals and their story.

The Way Back is still a pretty good film and I do have to agree with other reviewers that this is well worth at least a rental for the film and story. The Blu-ray release of The Way Back looks great and sounds fantastic throughout with well-done video and audio.

Film quality is excellent and almost perfect with no problems in audio and video being almost as good as you are ever going to get. Colors are fantastic and video is exceptionally clear with no apparent or even slightly obvious problems.

Audio uses a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that is crystal clear and with a great use of surround sound, the numerous outdoor scenes are very well captured. The film is really well made and transfer to Blu-ray is almost perfect and more than good enough for an entertaining movie.

The Way Back does have a decided lack of bonus content but this is probably due to the lack of the real events, with the actual escape in question they probably did not want to dwell on anything. The films authenticity aside the bonus content is simply a making of feature that is a half hour long.

While extras are lacking this is well worth at least a rental and the film does look and sound good for an entertaining movie. The Way Back may only rate a rental but it is entertaining enough and enjoyable in its own right, I would class this as a solid rental when there is nothing else worth watching available.

The Way Back Website