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Director Peter Weir has tackled a variety of genres. Obscure yet brilliant films that might touch on societal issues (Picnic at Hanging Rock), comedies (Green Card), crime thrillers (Witness), and sweeping epics (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) are just a few of the different genres he’s taken under his wing in the past.
His latest film sees him trying to navigate a tricky terrain with the World War II-centered escape epic The Way Back. Though this film boasts some admirable aspects, it more often than not encounters a fair share of problems.
Jim Sturgess leads this tale of escape in a terrific performance. The supporting cast also provides some terrific work. Colin Farrell somehow maintains his bad rep for personal behavior, but let’s face it, he’s an outstanding actor and this sinister yet ultimately emotional performance proves it. Ed Harris provides some solid resolution and expertly crafts his tough character, and Saoirse Ronan displays multiple dimensions for her somewhat mysterious character.
There is something genuine about this film. Part of its beauty, oddly enough, is its lack of thrills and development. That sounds strange, but consider that much of the conversations in the film don’t at all pertain to the action of the film. But wouldn’t it really be that way traveling with a group of people you hardly knew at all? Wouldn’t one try to get to know his/her companions to some capacity? Additionally, there isn’t a twist in every turn made on the journey. Not all destinations made would bring some exciting or climactic moment, would they?
However, that doesn’t mean that the film is all the better for its realism. Realism is something to be appreciated most definitely, but The Way Back horridly suffers in the pacing department. After a highly impressive beginning, things start to crumble once the escapees actually start their journey. Things never truly take off, and from there on out, nearly every moment feels monotonous, tedious, and mundane. Even the discovery and subsequent addition of Saoirse Ronan to the group fails to provide any solid grounds for interest.
It’s certainly not for everyone, but for those with enough patience to sit through it, The Way Back is gorgeously shot escape epic that can at the right moments tug at the heartstrings.
The Way Back
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by Keith R. Clarke and Peter Weir (screenplay) and Slavomir Rawicz (novel)
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan