"A Powerful, Unforgettable Journey to Freedom"
THE WAY BACK is inspired by a true story about seven men who escaped Stalin’s Soviet prison gulag in Siberia. Though it fictionalizes and changes parts of the real story, this is one of the best, most riveting, most inspiring, most powerful, and most important movies of the year. Despite some rough content, the heart of the movie is highly moral and uplifting as well as Christian and spiritually uplifting. As such, it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.
The movie opens in 1940 Russia with the wife of a Polish army man named Janusz betraying him after Soviet Communist thugs beat a confession against him out of her. The Communists stick Janusz in a freezing Siberian prison created by the old Russian tsars but expanded by the vicious Communist dictators Lenin and Stalin.
There, Janusz discovers a possible way out of the prison camp from a prisoner who used to be an actor. The Communists imprisoned the actor after he merely played an aristocrat in a movie!
The actor is a talker, not a doer, however. So, after saving some food and clothing, Janusz walks out of the prison in an intense snowstorm. Janusz is an excellent woodsman. He desperately wants to find his wife so he can forgive her and free her from Communist tyranny.
Janusz teams up with a mysterious American calling himself Mr. Smith and a violent Russian criminal, who has a knife with which he stabbed another prisoner. They follow Janusz as he leads the way out of the camp. The three men are astonished to find four other men following them out of the prison and into the woods.
Sadly, the youngest man, suffering from blindness because of poor nutrition, dies when he gets lost in the forest while searching for wood. In the morning, the other men find him just yards away, frozen to death.
The six remaining men make their way south to a large lake adjacent to the Trans-Siberian railroad that marks the Soviet border. What happens when they cross the border, pick up a teenage Polish girl also escaped from the Communists and walk thousands of miles through China makes for an absolutely riveting, at times heartbreaking but ultimately triumphant and redemptive story, one of the best movies you may see this year, or any other year, for that matter.
THE WAY BACK is brilliantly, forcefully, deftly directed by Peter Weir, director of such classics as THE LAST WAVE, WITNESS (No. 57 on Movieguide®’s Top 100 List), THE TRUMAN SHOW (Movieguide® winner), MASTER AND COMMANDER (Movieguide® winner), and GALLIPOLI. It’s also superbly acted by the whole cast, including veteran Ed Harris as the American, relative newcomer Jim Sturgess as Janusz, Colin Farrell as the Russian criminal, and young Saoirse Ronan as the teenage girl the men help, who becomes like a daughter to the American.
THE WAY BACK has a very strong Anti-Communist worldview that’s rooted in the overt Christian faith of most of the men. In fact, one of the men is a priest who suffers guilt because, out of revenge, he killed a young Communist guard one night at his church, which the Communists had brutally destroyed. Throughout the long journey, including the last scene, however, there are multiple, positive references to Jesus Christ and Christianity. There are also many heartwarming scenes of deep human compassion, despite some rough content showing the harsh conditions the men face, strong foul language and images of people dead, dying or almost dying. Finally, the movie skillfully uses newsreel footage of Soviet Communist oppression to give historical context to the story. With this movie, Weir clearly proves he truly is one of the greatest movie directors we currently have.
All in all, THE WAY BACK is a powerful, soul-stirring, penetrating, sweeping, visceral, inspiring, astonishing, unforgettable, and shimmering work of art. It would be almost impossible not to be extremely moved and uplifted by this impressive movie and astonishing journey. Unless, of course, you like Communism and dislike Christian liberty.
Be that as it may, the movie does contain five obscenities, including two “f” words. Also, two scenes show prisoners looking at drawings of nude women, and one convict belonging to a Russian gang makes a lewd reference. Finally, there are images of violence and of people dead, dying or almost dying, but nothing really graphic.
(CCC, BBB, ACACAC, PPP, Pa, L, VV, S, N, D, M) Very strong Christian, moral, Anti-Communist worldview about seven men escaping from a Soviet/Stalinist gulag to freedom and meeting a teenage Polish girl who travels with them for awhile, with very strong conservative values and lots of very strong Pro-Christian content, though not all the men are Christian or thoroughly so, but the movie’s last scene has a prominent cross displayed, which links the movie’s moral points about liberty to Jesus Christ and Christianity, plus Buddhist monk visits escaped prisoners in Tibet; five obscenities (including two “f” words) and man says, “I swear to God,” plus an image of lice on top of snow, man eats bug and men eat snake; strong violence includes prisoner and his wife interrogated by Communists have marks of being beaten on their faces, convict in Siberian prison stabs another man in stomach to take his sweater, prison guards threaten prisoners, man freezes to death, escaped prisoners find dead elk trapped in mud, priest comes across Buddhist temple destroyed by Communists and he recalls how Communists destroyed his church and he killed a lone guard that night at the church, massive sandstorm overtakes travelers, travelers show ravages of dying of thirst and sunstroke (including swollen feet) while trekking through huge desert, man sneaking through farms comes back with dead sheep and blood on his sweater; no sex but prisoners in Siberian gulag look at drawings of nude women and man makes a lewd reference; upper female nudity on paper as prisoners look at nude drawings; no alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, prisoner defends tattoos of Lenin and Stalin on his chest while saying Stalin is “Man of Steel” even though Stalin put him in Siberian prison because of his activity as a Russian gang member, stealing.
THE WAY BACK is one of the best movies ever. It tells the story of how seven men during World War II dared to escape from a Siberian prison camp run by the brutal Soviet Communists. Leading the men is a former Polish officer who was betrayed by his wife after the Communists beat her. Included among them is a mysterious American and a Christian priest. The men head south for the large lake adjacent to the Soviet border with Mongolia and China. Along the way, they pick up a young Polish teenage girl who also escaped the Communists. What happens then makes for an absolutely riveting story.
THE WAY BACK is brilliantly, forcefully, deftly directed by Peter Weir, director of at least three Movieguide® winners. This movie may be the fourth. Best of all, THE WAY BACK has a very strong Anti-Communist worldview rooted in the overt Christian faith of most of the men. Note that, there is very brief lewd content and images of violence and death, however, so caution is advised. However, THE WAY BACK is a powerful, soul-stirring, penetrating, sweeping, visceral, inspiring, astonishing, unforgettable, and shimmering masterpiece.