"Of course the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't play, you can't win." — Robert Heinlein

The Way Back

The Way Back


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Since I was a child I loved movies. Some of them I’ve even watched countless times, it was like if every time I was pressing play something new inside the movie was being revealed to me.
When we’re young we easily are drawn to action movies or funny ones, later on questions begin to clutter our teenage life and, looking for answers we start to watch movies that wander into more complex themes.
Something, however always bugged me about the “serious movies” set in the 20th century: there are many movies loosely set in the period around the Second World War that touched the subject of the Nazi Lager camps, yet I have no memory of any movie from Hollywood that talked about Communist Gulags.
Before you mentally RSVP to this movie relegating it to the rainiest and coldest winter Sunday, please consider that this is a true story very elegantly captured on film by Peter Weir.

The Way Back
The Way Back comes from the book called The Long Walk by Slavimir Rawicz, it is the story of a typical group of prisoners in a Gulag, they managed to escape one of the most secure and cruel places on Earth, one of the little forgotten “islands” composing the infamous Archipelago Gulag1, a huge systematic human annihilation system developed at the beginning of the Soviet Union in 1918. It went on officially till 1956 but in reality was left in place feeding on human life till the very end of the Soviet Union with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. By 1975, according to Solzhenitsyn, the Gulag system had seen at least 50 millions entering one gulag or another, going out was …a different story.
The reason why I said “typical” is that at first, it seems an odd collection of people, but we need to remember that forced accusations and public delations had been normal procedure for so many years in the Soviet Union; the result was that the majority of people in the Gulags had never committed any crime.
Hollywood is weird sometimes. 50 million people suffered in those hellish places, and still we had to wait for an eccentric and stubborn Aussie director, almost 100 years after the beginning of this horror to have a big production that started to tell us just one of these stories.
This movie has a good cast, all actors are very committed and surely the young Saoirse plays wonderfully her role. When I saw it at the cinema there was not the typical end of the movie scrum, everybody stood silently there for half a minute, it was almost surreal, we all needed a moment to absorb all that.
It is indeed hard to talk about this movie without giving out too much of the story, but rest assured, this is a story about what is good and worth living for that dwells in the human heart, what keeps us alive and chasing our freedom at every cost. This is a group of people like me and you that had the determination to escape their grim destiny and walk towards an improbable salvation, they walked for 4000 miles. If you think The Shawshank Redemption was touching you must watch this one.

1. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gulag_Archipelago

Featured Image by © 2010 – Newmarket Films, all rights reserved.

Author: Marcus1571

Marcus is the Administrator and Senior Editor at "Band of Bloggers".

"Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups" --- Eugene Lewis Fordsworthe


  1. Great review, for a great movie. Bravo Marco!

    Sometimes we go to the movies and find ourselves watching absurd stories, adventures and struggles that we can barely think possible and humanly bearable — and some other times we go to the cinema and watch a movie like "The Way Back" and we have to come to terms with the reality of life and the historical horrors that the modern world seems to wish to forget.

    When the movie ended, the first time, I sat quietly until the closing credits had rolled by on the screen. I just couldn't find it in me to move just yet and leave the movie theatre. This was truly a powerful, moving and – yes, why not admit it – shockingly beautiful and painfully true production.

    I strongly recommend it.

    • Thank you Helly, very insightful comment. Did you notice that sometimes we are prone to assume that when the story is too incredible then it is improbable, I'm sure that's how many Hollywood producers decide sometimes if it's the case or not to make a movie out of a script. Yet in this case, the human resilience still surprises us.
      If there was a way to glue an audience to their chair while showing a colossal production about Archipelago Gulag I'd be happy to do it and finally pay respect to all those unnamed and politically inconvenient victims.

  2. Loved the article and can’t wait to see the movie. I am from Lithuania and I know how much all three Baltic states have lost under years of occupation by Soviet union. There were about 300,000 people sent to Siberia from Lithuania only. Those who were deported there, were mostly educated people like all kinds of professors, doctors, lawyers, business owners, priests with their families and even small children. Only 30% of those people managed to come back to Lithuania. I strongly recommend to see the movie about a related book: http://www.betweenshadesofgray.com/

    • Sometimes I'm wondering what could the Baltic Republics have become if it wasn't for Communism and Soviet Union. The consequences of this will be carried for a long time.
      I also read there is a Museum of Gulag in Lithuania, with accurate reconstructions.

  3. On my way to watch it A.S.A.P.

  4. Super blog! Congratulations Marco!

    A presto.

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