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Four-time Oscar nominee, Ed Harris Apollo 13, Jim Sturgess Across the Universe and Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan Atonement and Colin Farrell In Bruges star in this epic saga of survival from six-time Oscar-nominee Peter Weir Witness, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Inspired by an incredible true story, The Way Back begins in 1940 when seven prisoners attempt the impossible: escape from a brutal Siberian gulag. Thus begins a treacherous 4,500-mile trek to freedom across the world's most merciless landscapes. They have little food and few supplies. They don't know or trust each other. But together, they must withstand nature at its most extreme. Their humanity is further tested when they meet a teenage runaway who begs to join them on their quest. A compelling testament to the human spirit, this gripping wilderness adventure is "Peter Weir at his hypnotic best" Telluride Film Festival.
The title The Way Back takes on an epic grandeur when you consider that the "way" stretches from a Soviet prison camp somewhere deep in World War II Siberia all the way across the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas to India. This is the route walked by a group of escapees in Peter Weir's utterly gripping movie, which joins the list of cinema's great tales of incredible endurance across inhospitable places. The movie is drawn from a book by Slavomir Rawicz, which was originally released as nonfiction but has subsequently had its veracity substantially debunked Weir proceeded with the film as a dramatized story because of an account that three people really had survived a similar trek during the war. The escapees include a Polish political prisoner Jim Sturgess, Across the Universe, a Russian criminal Colin Farrell, and an American Ed Harris who was caught working in Moscow when war broke out. Along with a few others, they break out of the gulag into a blizzard--it will cover their tracks in the snow--and along the 4,000-mile odyssey pick up a teenage girl Saoirse Ronan who also has reasons to flee the Soviet Union. This material was made for Peter Weir: the director's measured pace and near-physical sense of landscape gives the film an inexorable forward motion, yet nothing is rushed. And, whether crossing desert or dense forest, the film's purpose is to test how individual humanity might survive in extremity--in other words, despite the large canvas, the tiniest issues are very much in the foreground. And that, too, makes it a film by Peter Weir. --Robert Horton