Weekend Roundup and The Way Back review

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Hope everyone’s had a lovely weekend. I definitely enjoyed my 3-day weekend though it sure went by real fast. I took a much-needed break from my computer which including blogging and reading other people’s blogs, though I had planned on seeing more movies but only managed to see two of them. One of them is a repeat as one of my good friends hadn’t seen THOR and since we quite enjoyed it the first time around, we saw it again but in 2D (which looks just as good as the 3D one). I still like it the second time around, and I absolutely LOVE the music. In fact the soundtrack is playing right as I’m writing this. After seeing the post-credit scene, I’m excited (mostly out of sheer curiosity) to see The Avengers! Check out this fan-art poster already circulating online, I think it’s a pretty decent Photoshop job.

The other movie I saw was The Way Back. I posted the poster and trailer last year and remember being really intrigued by the story, which was inspired by real events. I’ll get to my short review in a moment but first let me just make a couple of announcements. My good pal and fellow cinephile Paula G. has joined FC as a regular contributor! Please extend your warm welcome to Paula and visit her own page on FC to find out a bit more about her. As always, you can visit each FC contributor’s page by clicking the Contributors tab at the top of the homepage. I’m so excited to have her on board as she’ll introduce a new blog series as well as reviews of various movies.

The second announcement is that the highly addictive and fun Anomalous Material’s Hollywood Fantasy Draft has begun, this time in its third installment! Last week, I spent a few hours drafting my cast for my next movie pitch along with other fine movie bloggers, click on the link to see which actors/directors we’ve selected for our fantasy movie. Look for my dream cast post this week ahead of the actual pitch itself that will go up next Monday, June 6.

Now, on to the review…

THE WAY BACK(2010)

This Peter Weir film is inspired by real events, loosely based on The Long Walk written by a Polish POW in the Soviet Gulag (labor prison camp). The film tells the story of about a half dozen men who escaped the Siberian prison in 1941.

But the escape itself was just the beginning, the much more grueling task is ahead of them as they’d have to find a refuge in a land that’s not yet conquered by the Communist regime. That means covering 4000 miles of treacherous trek that includes the Gobi desert and the Himalayas mountain on foot! If you’re doing a marathon or triathlon this Summer, you might want to watch this film for inspiration… whatever journey you think seem impossible to conquer will undoubtedly pale in comparison to even half of what these people had to go through. Check out the map of their journey from Google map. Seems too good to be true, isn’t it? Well, again it’s said it’s inspired by true events, so we don’t really know what the actual length of the walk really happened.

The time in the prison itself felt rather fast, perhaps even a bit rushed. Presumably because the filmmaker would rather focus on the harrowing journey, which naturally is the heart of the film. The small band of escapees are led by a mild-mannered Polish man Janusz  (Jim Sturgess) who was accused of spying, his own wife turned him in by way of torture. In the camp, he met an American transportation engineer Mr. Smith (Ed Harris) and a tough Russian criminal (Colin Farrell), among others, who later became part of the seven-band of people who made the prison escape. Australian director Peter Weir always aimed for realism in his films, so the film looks appropriately gritty and somber. The actors speak using the accent of their characters’ nationalities, supported by subtitles, which I think is an effective way to get the audience absorbed in the environment.

The acting is really good all around, British young talent Sturgess is quite compelling as the kind-hearted Janusz, whilst Colin Farrell stole scenes in the relatively small screen time he’s in as the brutish Russian criminal who isn’t exactly a people person. It’s quite problematic when you’ve got a small band who must stick together to survive, but he later proves to be a loyal man and actually pretty funny as well, I grow fond of his character as the film progresses. Ed Harris is someone you can always rely on to provide screen gravitas in anything he’s in, and he’s perfectly cast as the weary and cynical Mr. Smith. Speaking of reliability, 17-year-old Saiorse Ronan once again impresses as a runaway girl Irena, who joins the group midway through the journey. In fact, it’s Irena who lets us in on the back story of each escapee, providing us some of the most memorable and heart-wrenching scenes. The other lesser-known actors are pretty good as well, especially Zoran, the Yugoslav accountant who provides the much-needed comic relief.

Another strength of the film is the cinematography by Russell Boyd, whose attention to detail to the overwhelmingly beautiful yet harsh scenery adds so much to the film. National Geographic Society is one of the film’s sponsors, so I guess that’s to be expected. This movie is impressive in many levels, but in the end, I didn’t find it as engaging as the previous Peter Weir’s film I saw, Master and Commander (view trailer). Don’t get me wrong, I’d still give this one high marks, I’m just surprised I wasn’t as emotionally-invested in the characters as I thought I would considering what they had gone through. Nonetheless, it’s a worthy survival tale that paints a convincing narration about human endurance.

4 out of 5 reels

Any thoughts about the movies I mentioned above?  What movie(s) did you get to see this weekend?

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47 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup and The Way Back review

  1. Ted S.

    Yeah the three day weekend was nice but it’s hard going back to work tomorrow morning or should I say later this morning since it’s already 12am.

    After seeing Thor, I’m definitely looking forward to Capt. America and The Avengers. Especially when Joss Whedon said that in The Avengers, there’s going to be a big fight scene between Hulk and Thor, should be fun seeing those two guys go toe to toe.

    I put The Way Back on Netflix, I’m looking forward to see it because it’s Weir’s first film in almost 10 years.

    I just watched one movie over the weekend, a very awful movie called The Way of The Gun. Some people I know raves about it and it has sort of a cult following. It came out about 11 years ago, I almost stop watching it but I wanted to see what happens at the end. Well I wish I had two hours of my life back. Awful movie.

    1. Hello there Ted, yeah 3-day weekend is definitely not long enough. It was quite busy too w/ a wedding on Sat, and potluck on Friday night, etc. but did get a bunch of stuff done around the house which is always good.

      Yeah, I think the success of Thor will probably benefit Capt. America a lot. I’m really curious how Whedon’s gonna pull off having sooo many superheroes in one movie. Oh, Thor vs. Hulk?Now that’s a battle I gotta see 🙂

      Weir is a bit like Malick isn’t it? He takes his time w/ his projects, but all of them always look beautiful.

      Never heard of The Way of The Gun but I’d avoid that now.

      1. Ted S.

        Welcome to Flixxchatter Paula, looking forward to reading your articles. 🙂 And yes The Way of The Gun was hard to get through, I almost turn it off a few times. It tried to be this sophisticated kidnapping action/drama but it failed on so many levels.

        @Ruth, yeah it’s one to avoid because not only is the film bad but it’s quite violent, so I know you won’t enjoy it.

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah I was surprised how much I enjoyed Thor, even after the reading so many good reviews about it, yours and Ruth’s too, I was still skeptical. I have a friend who’s a huge fan of the comic book, he convinced me to go see it. We saw the film in a theater where they didn’t take the 3D lens off, so the film was quite dark. Damn 3D! I’ll enjoy it more when I get the Blu-ray Disc in a couple of months.

          1. Ted S.

            Unfortunately I didn’t know the reason why the picture was so dark until that article came out last week. Now that I know, I’ll try to avoid films showing in “digital presentation”.

  2. Funk

    Ruth, glad you had a great holiday, It went pretty good here in the ROK to, but like you said it went by entirely to fast. Time flies when your having fun.
    Sounds like I’m going to have to see Thor, I’ve been a fan of him since I was a kid reading the comics as soon as the came out. Thor and the Avengers where my 3rd and 4 favorite comic, the first being “Sgt Rock”, and “The Haunted Tank”. Still hoping someone someday will do a movie on Sgt Rock.
    Been wanting to see “The Way Back” and will most like see it to.
    Movies I watched this weekend, were the Civil War movies “Gods and Generals” and “Gettsyburg”. I must say Gettsyburg was better this time around. Pretty good history lesson.

    1. Hey there Dave, glad to hear you had a nice weekend. Yeah, you’re right, the weekend certainly flew by so quickly.

      Oh, you should check out THOR if you read the comics, you might have a different appreciation for it than people who aren’t as familiar w/ the character like I am.

      I highly recommend The Way Back as well, I’ve seen 5 of Peter Weir movies so far and all of them are good to excellent. I still have to check out Mosquito Coast, but it’s on my Netflix queue.

      The two films you watched are very timely for Memorial weekend, I’ve heard great things about Gods & Generals, that’s the one w/ Jeff Daniels, right?

      1. Funk

        Yep, Jeff Daniels played the same character in both movies, God’s and Generals and Gettsyburg.
        I’m a great fan of Peter Weir, my top three Weir films are Master and Commander, Gallipoli and A Year of Living Dangerously, somehow the later two just draw me in completely.

  3. Hey Ruth!!!

    I am happy you had a great time on your holiday weekend. The extra day is always nice, short week this week too hey?

    I have read some good things about ‘The Way Back’ I haven’t got around to seeing it myself yet, but I am sure I will. I look forward to it now. Great writing as always my buddy!!!

    Welcome Paula!! Another Flixer to read!! Awesome!!

    We are still on Holiday so I am sorry if I am not commenting as much as normal

    C

    1. Ha, lucky for some Cus, I never get bank holidays at my work as I work at a newspaper and they take very few holidays 😦 I have a copy of The Way back at home so I will watch it now. Hope you are enjoying your holiday.

    2. Hey Custard, I heard you’re spending your weekend w/ the in-laws? Sounds fun, my in-laws are lovely, too, we just spent Christmas w/ them.

      Yes, short week is always awesome!! It’s gonna be a busy week though, but at least it’s already Tuesday.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on your holiday, mate… and yeah, isn’t it awesome to have Paula join FC? She’s an awesome writer, too, so I’m very honored.

      Enjoy your holiday, my friend, I’ll be popping over FRC later today… I miss reading my friends’ blogs!

  4. I really liked Master and Commander, it was heartfelt and realistic with some great performances. Weir seems to have a talent for getting the goods from his actors. Thanks for the review Ruth, will have to watch it now 🙂

    1. Hey Ronan, M&C is one of my fave Russell Crowe movie now… it’s just excellent on so many levels. It’s amazing that I like it so much since it took place mostly on a boat and there’s no romance in it.

      You are absolutely right that Weir has a way w/ his actors. I mean, Jim Carrey was amazing in The Truman Show, I’ve never seen him that good in his previous movies.

  5. How did ‘The Way Back’ look on DVD? I think it’s much more of a big screen movie (unless you have a really big TV, I suppose).

  6. great review, Ruth.
    I have never heard of this movie before. The story sounds interesting, and Jim Sturgess is a plus point there 😉
    Will see if I can find it here.

    1. Oh you like Jim, eh? I only seen him in two movies, he was good in 21 but he’s really excellent here. He had an American accent in 21 and a Polish one here, so I’ve never heard him speak with his own British accent, he..he..

  7. Great review Ruth. Thanks for including that map. When I see it like that, it’s a bit mind-boggling.

    This is one of those that came and went in a couple of weeks here and I hadn’t heard much about it. But I’ve added in to the queue now.

    1. Thanks dearest and once again, WELCOME to FC!! [big hugs]

      I figure including that map would give people a better idea of the kind of journey these people went through in the film. It really is astounding! Even if the actual walk was only half of that, in that terrain it’s still a story worth telling.

  8. Jack Deth

    Hi, all:

    ‘The Way Back’ slipped completely under the radar here around Washington, DC. Which is a crying shame.

    The film had already come and gone when I caught some clips and reviews of it on Current (Ch. 196 on Dish) and began waiting for the DVD.

    Peter Weir has a way with the camera, actors and surroundings dating back to ‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’ that reaches an audience in ways that other directors lack.

    I put ‘The Way Back’ somewhere between ‘Master & Commander’, ‘Gallipoli’ and ‘The Year Of Living Dangerously’
    in overall satisfaction.

    1. Hi Jack, I didn’t know if it played in my neck of the woods either. I have yet to check out Weir’s other work, Gallipoli caught my attention as I went to his IMDb page, and The Year of Living Dangerously was about the political unrest in my home country, so naturally I had to check that out.

      I wish he made more movies, I haven’t heard about what he’ll be working on next.

  9. Welcome Paula! Excited to see what you bring to FC!!

    I, (as you know Ruth), am VERY excited for The Avengers!! Can’t wait!

    Glad to see The Way Back meets your approval. Been wanting to check it out, but with the number of movies I am behind on, I may have to wait for it on netflix or cinemaNow. Great review.

    Still debating on checking out Hangover II or Kung Fu Panda 2 today. I may just wait for X-Men in theaters.

    I may just stay at home and watch Moon.

    1. Hi T, sorry I’m so behind on emails so I haven’t got a chance to respond to you.

      Ha..ha.. well of course you’re excited for The Avengers. That is gonna be a big event next year w/ all the stars involved.

      I have zero interest in the two movies you mention, but obviously they do well without my support, ahah. If I were you I’d rather watch MOON.

      I can’t wait to see First Class!!! That’ll be a first rate experience surely.

      1. no worries. take your time! i know you r super busy! as am I. I understand.

        what? no interest in any of the 2 highest grossing movies of last weekend? 1 being the highest grossing comedy of all time!?? 😉

  10. I”m definitely going to try to see this. And i haven’t seen anything this weekend because i’m on vacation, although my dad saw a movie on his labtop through streaming that he liked called “The alien girl.” I will try to see that also because me and my dad usually agree on movies(The only movie we’ve really disgareed on so far is 2001. He really likes it, but i found it underwhelming)

    Btw me and ronan did our intro posts for the blogothon we’re starting

  11. Colin Farrell was great, I wished he didn’t leave the party that early in the movie. The movie feels a bit overlong and doesn’t know where to end but I enjoyed it (watched it twice). Good review Ruth 🙂

    1. Y’know, I didn’t really like his character at first, but he grew on me and so I was bummed out to see him stay behind. You saw it twice already Castor? You must really like it then. I think I’d rather watch Master & Commander again than this one.

  12. I am going to definitely check out The Way Back soon- I like the storyline and it features Saoirse Ronan and a Romanian actor, so my interest has peaked! Great write-up!

    1. I hope you enjoy it, Diana. I really like the story and there are some fine performances, especially Ed Harris. I also like Jim Sturgess as I never saw him in this kind of role. Ronan is excellent as always.

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