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"THE WAY BACK"
(2010) (Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris) (PG-13)


Alcohol/Drugs Mild
Blood/Gross Stuff Moderate
Disrespectful/Bad Attitude Extreme
Frightening/Tense Scenes Heavy
Gun/Weapons Heavy
Imitative Behavior Heavy
Jump Scenes Minor
Music (Scary/Tense) Mild
Music (Inappropriate) None
Profanity Heavy
Sex/Nudity Heavy
Smoking Moderate
Tense Family Scenes Heavy
Topics to Talk About Heavy
Violence Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A small group of POWs escape from a Siberian labor camp and walk thousands of miles to freedom.
PLOT:
It's 1940 and Polish soldier Janusz (JIM STURGESS) has been accused of spying and sabotage, including by his wife, and thus is sent off to a Soviet prison labor camp in Siberia. There, he's befriended by Khabarov (MARK STRONG), an actor who always talks of plotting an escape, but never does anything about it, a fact pointed out by American engineer, Mr. Smith (ED HARRIS). He's also imprisoned there along with many others, including criminal Valka (COLIN FARRELL) who's racking up a bad gambling debt to even more menacing thugs than himself.

Despite being told that the real prison is the harsh Siberian climate as well as locals who would likely kill any escapees if caught, Janusz can't get the idea of escape out of his mind. After doing hard labor in the snowy cold and then sweltering mines, he decides to make his break. He's joined by Smith and Valka, as well as Zoran (DRAGOS BUCUR), Tamasz (ALEXANDRU POTOCEAN), Kazik (SEBASTIAN URZENDOWSKY) and Voss (GUSTAF SKARSGARD).

The camp guards quickly give up their pursuit, figuring the men will soon be dead from the weather. Yet, the group trudges on, eventually making their way out of the snow and eventually picking up Polish street teen, Irena (SAOIRSE RONAN). With the goal of making it to freedom in China and then later in India, the group must contend with varied weather and terrain conditions, worries about being discovered and captured, and the fact that they have thousands of miles to go.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or are interested in the subject matter, it doesn't seem likely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For violent content, depiction of physical hardships, a nude image and brief strong language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JIM STURGESS plays a Polish soldier wrongly accused (including by his wife) of spying and sabotage and thus imprisoned in a Soviet prison labor camp in 1940. While the rookie there, he becomes the unofficial leader during the escape, directing the group south in the hopes of making it to freedom in China and then India.
  • ED HARRIS plays an American engineer imprisoned in the labor camp who, following the murder of his teenage son, is initially only interested in self-preservation. That's why he joins Janusz in the escape, but he softens up a bit as their trek goes on. He smokes several times.
  • COLIN FARRELL plays a criminal in the prison camp who stabs a man for his sweater that he (Valka) needs to cover a gambling bet. When his gambling problems build to the point of endangering his life, he joins the escapees when they flee the labor camp. He briefly drinks and smokes.
  • SAOIRSE RONAN plays a Polish teen who's been living on the streets and follows the group of escapees, hoping to join them. She's eventually accepted into the group and discovers personal facts about the individuals. She drinks some.
  • MARK STRONG plays an actor in the camp who befriends Janusz and talks a big story about plotting an escape, but never acts on that.
  • DRAGOS BUCUR, ALEXANDRU POTOCEAN, SEBASTIAN URZENDOWSKY and GUSTAF SKARSGARD play other prisoners who join the others on their trek to freedom.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated drama. Profanity consists of at least 2 "f" words, while a handful of other expletives and colorful phrases are also uttered. A few nude sketches of women are seen, and a related sexual gesture is made regarding one, while some men are seen shirtless.

    Violence consists of a stabbing and some brief struggling, while several characters die from exposure to the elements and the long trek on foot for others. Those scenes and various moments of potential peril could be unsettling to some viewers.

    Several characters are bloodied and/or blistered from their arduous trek, and other blood is also present. Some behavior might be enticing for kids to attempt to imitate.

    Some drinking occurs (including by a teen) and some characters smoke and/or barter/bet with cigarettes, while bad attitudes are present, as is tense family material and thematic elements.

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those prone to visually induced motion sickness, there's some bouncy handheld camera footage in the film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Valka returns from a brief solo raid into a town and has a bottle of booze from which he then takes a swig.
  • Irena drinks from the bottle of booze.
  • Irena again drinks from the bottle of booze.
  • BLOOD/GROSS STUFF
  • Janusz might have some blood on his face while being interrogated for being a spy.
  • Valka wants a sweater from another prisoner in order to use that in a bet. When the man refuses, Valka stabs him in the gut and takes the sweater that he hands to another prisoner who then has the victim's blood on his hands from that.
  • We see various dead prisoners on the ground (in the cold snow).
  • The group finds that one of their own has frozen to death out in the cold elements.
  • Valka eats a worm for nourishment.
  • The group finds a pack of wolves feeding on a dead animal. The wolves snarl and bare their teeth, but run off as the men approach and make noise. The men then feed on the bloody carcass.
  • Smith removes his "shoe" to discover a bloody foot (from all of the walking).
  • About Valka having tattoos of Stalin and Lenin on his chest, one prisoner jokes that if he's going to have such "assholes," they should be on his "ass" so that they could see them take a "sh*t." As a result, Valka goes at the guy and must be pulled away.
  • The group members discover a ransacked temple and find some partially buried human skulls that appear to have bullet holes in them.
  • Irena's lips are badly blistered from sunburn, while her feet and lower legs are badly swollen.
  • The various group members are badly blistered from sunburn in the desert.
  • We see one man with badly swollen feet.
  • One man's tooth comes out (no blood) while he's eating.
  • One of the men goes to urinate (nothing seen or heard) but stops when he spots the Great Wall of China.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Janusz is wrongly accused of spying and sabotage and thus is imprisoned in the Soviet labor camp. To make his wife confess against him, it's suggested those in charge have tortured her.
  • We hear that various prisoners are murderers and thieves, and that they rule over other inmates. Among them is Valka who stabs another prisoner for his sweater to be used in a gambling bet.
  • Prison camp guards lead prisoners through extremely cold and snowy conditions that have resulted in some prisoners dropping to the ground, exhausted or dead. Smith tells a guard that they need to build shelter from the elements, but the guard replies, "I could give a f*ck if you dropped dead right now."
  • The group finds that one of their own has frozen to death out in the cold elements. Valka then comments that means it's one less mouth to feed.
  • Valka asks who will be the next to die in their group, and talks of one man being tenderer (a cannibalism reference).
  • When the group realizes young Irena has been following them, some want to allow her to join the group, but others, including Smith and Valka, don't want to, so the group doesn't and continues on its way (but they eventually do allow her to join them).
  • Smith uses the term "Japs."
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" and/or "Blood/Gross Stuff" may be unsettling and/or suspenseful to younger viewers and/or those with low tolerance levels for such material.
  • Khabarov warns Janusz that Stalin has eyes and ears everywhere in the prison camp.
  • Prison camp guards lead prisoners through extremely cold and snowy conditions that have resulted in some prisoners dropping to the ground, exhausted or dead. Smith tells a guard that they need to build shelter from the elements, but the guard replies, "I couldn't give a f*ck if you dropped dead right now." He then orders everyone down, but when Smith doesn't comply, he holds his handgun to Smith's head until he does. Moments later, we see Smith or another prisoner headed away from the group into the woods, with the guards nearly shooting him (with a pistol and rifles aimed his direction), but they don't as they realize they must create that shelter.
  • We see various dead prisoners on the ground (in the cold snow).
  • While working in a mine, Janusz imagines a view of what's presumably his home and walks toward that, only to meet a guard who points his bayonet at him.
  • Valka holds his knife to Janusz's throat, waking him from his sleep.
  • Various prisoners escape from the prison camp during a snowstorm and flee through the woods.
  • The escaped prisoners hear sounds of wolves off in the distance.
  • Kazik suffers from night blindness and ends up lost and isolated away from the group.
  • The group finds that one of their own has frozen to death out in the cold elements.
  • The group finds a pack of wolves feeding on a dead animal. The wolves snarl and bare their teeth, but run off as the men approach and make noise. The men then feed on the bloody carcass.
  • Janusz heads off by himself to find a pivotal lake the group needs to follow on their journey. After several days, he's delirious and again imagines the idyllic view of his house.
  • The group realizes they're being followed, and thus send Valka around the edge to take care of the person with his knife. They call him off just in time, however, when they realize it's Irena.
  • The group finds a deer stuck in deep mud and slowly approach it for the kill (which we don't see).
  • The group encounters an iced-over river passage that's in their way. They figure they'll have to swim as the ice appears too thin, but Irena instead scampers across the ice and makes it to the other side. The rest follow suit, with each one cracking the ice even more (and some end up in the cold water, but are okay).
  • The group members must contend with thick swarms of mosquitoes all around them. Desperate to stop them and learn why they're not affecting locals, Zoran runs to a man (thus running the risk of him alerting others to them hiding) and then returns with whatever the man had been wearing to repel the parasites.
  • The group members spot armed guards along railroad tracks they must cross. They eventually sneak across them, with one member deciding not to continue with the rest.
  • The group members discover that communism has also arrived where they thought they'd find freedom, meaning they must now cross a vast desert.
  • The group members discover a ransacked temple and find some partially buried human skulls that appear to have bullet holes in them.
  • As the group members cross a vast desert, they're quickly approached by various people on horseback who surround them, but then leave just as fast after believing Smith and the others are pilgrims.
  • As they continue walking through the vast and arid desert, the group members grow more weary, thirsty and sunburnt. Some think they see an oasis off in the distance, but Janusz tries to convince them it's just a mirage, but he loses control of the group who then head that way.
  • The group members must contend with a sandstorm that quickly engulfs them.
  • Irena collapses in the desert, and we see that her feet and legs are badly swollen. Determined to go on, she gets up and starts walking again, only to collapse later (at which point one of the men carries her).
  • One of the group members dies in the desert and is then buried.
  • From a distant view, we see one man collapse going up a sand dune (and it appears the others won't even notice, but we then see them all together again).
  • We see that another in the group has died.
  • Janusz wakes up to find a snake slithering through his legs. It's then grabbed and beheaded, but we don't see the act.
  • Despite being told they can't cross the mountains of Tibet for months in case a snowstorm comes along, Smith and then the others continue on their trek.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Armed guards accompany inmates into the Siberian prison camp.
  • We hear the sound of an explosion off in the distance.
  • A prison guard orders everyone down, but when Smith doesn't comply, he holds his handgun to Smith's head until he does. Moments later, we see Smith or another prisoner headed away from the group into the woods, with the guards nearly shooting him (with a pistol and rifles aimed his direction), but they don't as they realize they must create shelter from the cold.
  • While working in a mine, Janusz imagines a view of what's presumably his home and walks toward that, only to meet a guard who points his bayonet at him.
  • Valka holds his knife to Janusz's throat, waking him from his sleep.
  • While walking along, Valka tosses his knife about (flipping and catching it, etc.).
  • Valka jabs his knife into a tree after his attack on Irena (initially only identified as a stranger following the group) is called off.
  • The group members spot armed guards along railroad tracks they must cross.
  • In several separate bits of archival footage, we see tanks rolling along, while we also see a person shooting a rifle in conflict (but we don't see if anyone or anything is hit).
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "We're f*cked," "I could give a f*ck if you dropped dead right now," "Shut up," "Are you crazy?" "Run, damn you," "You do the shutting up," "Easy, cowboy," "Idiot," "Well, I'll be damned" and "Japs."
  • We see Valka and other inmates betting with cigarettes.
  • Valka has various tattoos, as do other prisoners.
  • The escaped prisoners make wind-break masks out of tree bark to get through a blinding snowstorm.
  • While walking along, Valka tosses his knife about (flipping and catching it, etc.).
  • Irena (a teenager) drinks twice from a bottle of liquor.
  • The group encounters an iced-over river passage that's in their way. They figure they'll have to swim as the ice appears too thin, but Irena instead scampers across the ice and makes it to the other side. The rest follow suit, with each one cracking the ice even more (and some end up in the cold water, but are okay).
  • JUMP SCENES
  • The group members discover a ransacked temple and some birds inside it suddenly take flight.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A mild amount of suspenseful music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 2 "f" words, 1 "s" word, 4 damns and 2 asses (1 used with "hole").
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Valka hands another prisoner a drawing of a nude woman on all fours facing away, with her breasts hanging down and her bare butt visible. He then makes a playful male masturbation gesture. The new owner of that lifts up his own shirt and places that drawing on his bare chest.
  • A man barters with a drawing of a nude woman, down on her spread knees with her hand to her crotch (bare breasts are visible).
  • We see Smith shirtless by the lake, while we also see Valka shirtless for a shave.
  • We see Janusz's bare chest as he lies face up in a river, and a distant shot may show him fully nude, but much of his lower half appears to be under the water and no details can be seen.
  • SMOKING
  • Smith and Valka each smoke several times (with Smith also seen holding a cigarette in his hand, while Valka has one over his ear), while Zoran smokes once and some minor/miscellaneous characters also smoke.
  • We see Valka and other inmates betting with cigarettes.
  • Cigarettes are traded for goods in the prison camp.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • As Janusz is being interrogated about being a spy, he denies the allegations. But his wife is then brought in, visibly upset, and she testifies against him, all while he keeps asking her what they did to her (to make her lie).
  • Irena states her parents are dead and that she found them face down in bed, having been bashed and then strangled with barbwire (but we later learn this was a lie to get the group to feel sorry for her and allow her to join them).
  • Irena says her brother died when she was 10, after both were put into an orphanage when their parents were accused of being spies and then taken away.
  • Irena informs Janusz that she learned Smith's son was shot at the age of 17 in the past.
  • Janusz mentions to Smith about hearing about the latter's son, and asks if he can say his name. Smith replies that doing so won't bring him back and that he can't forgive himself for bringing him to Russia. That's followed by talk of Janusz's wife being tortured to get her to testify against him, with Smith saying his son was also tortured and then shot in the head. Janusz says his wife is still alive and that he needs to get back to her to forgive her and thus stop her from torturing herself (with guilt).
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The historical accuracy and/or any artistic license taken with the reportedly true story.
  • WWII.
  • Communism.
  • After not allowing a starving man to grab his dropped food, Smith tells Janusz (who does share his with that man) that kindness will kill him in prison.
  • Prison camps where hard labor is part of the punishment.
  • Smith informs Janusz that Khabarov is a liar, always talking of escaping, but that he's just a leech who lives off the hope of others.
  • Valka has a gambling debt with other prisoners and thus wants to escape with the group.
  • Kazik suffers from night blindness and ends up lost and isolated away from the group.
  • Valka defends Stalin by saying he stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
  • Smith uses the term "Japs."
  • The ending of the movie quickly details the Soviet Union imposing communism in Poland during the 1940s and the Iron Curtain around East Europe, followed by the Hungarian uprising, the Berlin Wall going up in 1961, and then the fall of communism in 1989.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Valka wants a sweater from another prisoner in order to use that in a bet. When the man refuses, Valka stabs him in the gut and takes the sweater that he hands to another prisoner who then has the victim's blood on his hands from that.
  • The group members are mad when they learn that Valka went into a town they purposefully went around. When he returns, Smith pushes him back against a tree, but Valka then reveals he brought supplies. He admits that he killed for them, but says it was only a dog.
  • About Valka having tattoos of Stalin and Lenin on his chest, one prisoner jokes that if he's going to have such "assholes," they should be on his "ass" so that they could see them take a "sh*t." As a result, Valka goes at the guy and must be pulled away.
  • The group members discover a ransacked temple and find some partially buried human skulls that appear to have bullet holes in them (the result of unseen violence).
  • One prisoner tells a story about a person who was strangled to the point that their eyes popped out of their head, with more talk about a killing in cold blood.
  • In some archival footage, we see a woman run and try to duck through some barbwire, but she gets snagged by it (no blood and seen from a distance).



  • Reviewed January 18, 2011/ Posted January 21, 2011

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