The movie The Way Back is based on a non-fiction book called The Long Walk. I assume it did not carry the title of its source material because someone with power and money said, “No one wants to see a movie about walking. You know what the ratings are of the speed walking championships? Well, neither do I, I don’t think ESPN even bothers to carry them. Long walks, that’s just boring. Last week I got lost driving back from Brentwood. You know what was on my mind? The same thing we’ll call this. The Way Back. That’s a name everyone can relate to.”
I went to see this movie because I like long walks. I saw the preview that showed a couple movie stars trapped in a Siberian gulag and they had to walk thousands of miles to find freedom. Through the woods, through Siberian terrain, through the hottest of deserts, and over the Himalayas all without the benefit of a GPS. It was the genre of movie they don’t much make any more, an adventure story.
My fondness for A Way Back might sound a little hypocritical as one of my biggest complaints about The Lord of The Rings movies was that it was just watching a bunch of midgets walking in the forest for nine hours. At times A Way Back also grew monotonous. As spectacular as the scenery was, watching landscape after stunning landscape on the screen can grow boring. Fortunately The Way Back is seven hours shorter than Lord of the Rings (although they do cut out scenes I would have liked to have seen such as the actual escape from the gulag). And instead of the walk being broken up by CGI monsters, it was interspersed with survival tips such as how to survive without water in the desert or in the flurries of subzero temperatures.
The acting is decent. Colin Farrell is surprisingly interesting as a Russian mobster. Ed Harris does a competent job playing Ed Harris. I found it hard to differentiate the rest of the actors. I know one liked to cook and another liked to draw, but all their scraggly beards and Eastern European accents made it hard to pick them apart. But this wasn’t a character study.
This is a movie that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it come out of a time capsule from twenty years ago. Sure it moves at a slow pace and has a cheesy sense of humor, but I’ll take all that to get something I haven’t seen in a while, an old fashioned man versus nature yarn that will make you feel like a cry baby the next time you complain about having to park so far away from the entrance of the mall.