The Movie Pool looks at one of the best films of 2010: The Way Back on Blu-ray!
ASPECT RATIO: 2.35:1 (1080P) enhanced for widescreen televisions
RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes
AUDIO: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,
SUBTITLES: English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Spanish
SPECIAL FEATURES: "The Journey of the Journey" Featurette, Trailer
The Way Back, a film based on true events, follows seven prisoners who escape from a Russian gulag in Siberia in 1940 and must make a treacherous journey across a rugged wilderness to freedom. Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Mark Strong, and Colin Farrell all play prisoners in the gulag. Saoirse Ronan has a small part as a Russian runaway they meet during their escape.
Director: Peter Weir (Master and Commander)
Screenplay: Peter Weir and Keith Clarke
The Way Back did not get much press when it was released in theaters, but make no mistake: this is an exceptional film. Incredibly realistic, Weir painstakingly carries the viewer through the story, from the gulag escape to the harsh reality of the journey across the wilderness and unforgiving terrain to freedom.
The film builds slowly, but Weir's masterful direction and strong performances from Harris and Sturgess in particular pull you in. By the end of the film, the weight of what these characters have gone through culminates in a brief but emotional climax that will tear you apart once you realize what has happened. This is an absolutely incredible film and easily one of the best of 2010. I'm just sorry it took me so long to see it. It earned one Oscar nomination, for makeup. It deserved many more.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
When your film is based in the Siberian wilderness during the winter, the color palette is going to be bleak. Indeed, The Way Back is muted in its colors, but there is some vivid detail. The snow covered forests are stark and beautiful, and overhead shots of the landscape are incredible. This is an excellent video transfer. Blacks are dark as ink and what colors it does feature are deep and jewel-like. Faces show a lot of detail, which for this film, is important, because these characters are put through the ringer and their faces show it. The English 5.1 DTS mix keeps the voices at the forefront, while providing some ambiance.
The special features are pretty scarce; just a behind the scenes featurette and a trailer. The "Journey of the Journey" featurette includes a number of interviews with the cast as well as Weir. It delves more into the story of the gulags and several actors talk about meeting former prisoners, and how that inspired their performance. There is some footage of Weir directing and talking about his approach, but I would have liked to have seen more. Otherwise, it's a great featurette, and worth watching after you've seen the movie.
BUY IT, REDBOX IT, OR NETFLIX IT?
OVERALL GRADE: A-
Peter Weir doesn't do many movies, so for film buffs, each is an event. While The Way Back may not carry the same buzz as other Weir films like Witness, Master and Commander, or even The Truman Show, it is a great film whose emotional impact sneaks up on you. I wish the Blu-ray would have included more extras that detailed what was obviously an incredible filmmaking process, but even so, it is worth a buy if you enjoy good cinema. The video and sound are top-notch, and the viewing experience is only bolstered by it. This is a film everyone should see.
The Way Back is now available on Blu-ray from Image Entertainment.