Socialist Worker

The Way Back

by Nick Grant
Issue No. 2234

This Hollywood movie tells how a multi-national group escaped from Joseph Stalin’s gulag and survived climatic extremes to walk 4,000 miles to political freedom in India.

It is inspired by a memoir, about an escape from Siberia in 1940.

Polish author Slavomir Rawicz’s 1956 book claimed to be a survivor’s memoir of the escape from a Siberian prison camp in 1940.

Director Peter Weir accepts that this account’s accuracy is in question, so the film only claims to be inspired by the story.

Nevertheless it is presented in a realistic mode, bookended with archive newsreel footage.

Each character’s reasons for ending up as Stalin’s political and criminal victims, as well as their differing powers of and motivations for resistance. They turn out to embody a range of stereotypes for today about how the West views Russia and its past.

The crude contrast of the harsh climatic conditions with the tender personalised camaraderie of the escapees has won plaudits from the mainstream media.

But in the end it is disappointingly tedious.

The Way Back, directed by Peter Weir. Out now

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Article information

Tue 11 Jan 2011, 18:33 GMT
Issue No. 2234
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