"Kindness can get you killed here," one convict warns another. "The Way Back," starring Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Colin Farrell, is about prisoners sent to a Gulag in Siberia during the reign of Hitler and Stalin. Their characters embark on a mission with other prisoners to escape the torturous labor camp where people starve or freeze to death daily.
They collect food for the trip by not eating their normal rations, saving it for their long journey. The prisoners leave on a snowy night, making it difficult for the guards to find them. The group decreases in number as they trek 4,000 miles to freedom in India. On the way, they meet an orphan named Irene (Saoirse Ronan), who joins them.
This film focuses on the characters and how they cope with the struggles they encounter on their journey to freedom from communism. It captures with brutal eloquence how terrible the conditions were in the Gulag during their trip and in all of Europe during the 1940s.
The characters are depicted splendidly, and we get a strong sense of how different these people are from each other, even though they have the same dream for freedom. There are several walking scenes, whether it's trudging through the forests in three feet of snow or trekking through deserts in the blazing hot sun.
To some people, some scenes may seem boring or unexciting. But to me, these sluggish scenes emphasize the reality of the terribly difficult voyage. This movie is based on a true story and is extraordinarily moving. It makes you appreciate what you may have been taking for granted and feel lucky and blessed to live in the present world.
I give "The Way Back" a 9 out of 10 for its incredible acting and life-changing story.
Katherine Grace Marra is a sophomore at Weston High School who reviews films from a teen's perspective on her blog, www.katherinegracem.tumblr.com .
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