REVIEW ROUND UP: ‘The Way Back’ at Telluride

Last night, The Way Back screened its’ only slot at the Telluride Film Festival, this was the world premeire of six-time nominee, Peter Weir’s latest film. Very few reviews have surfaced, but, from what I can gather, it is dark, brutal, painful-to-watch, but brilliant. This puts the film in the interesting position of being a potential Oscar nominee, but one that might turn off Hollywoods’ more conservative voters.

Kris Tapley of gave it four stars and showered it with praise all around, even comparing Weir to David Lean:

The film is unconventional in its depiction of a long march by Siberian Gulag escapees out of Communist Russia. But rather than becoming repetitive or aimless, the film’s series of vignettes depicting the mundane particulars of survival (be it physical or psychological) is incredibly moving and consistently engaging.

Cinematical was a little more restrained in praise, calling it too dark for most viewers:

The Way Back brings a lot of talent and a tremendous amount of craft to a movie that will be too painful for most people to endure. There is nothing reassuring about it; no triumph-of-the-human-spirit comfort. The story of these men is “inspiring,” but only in the grimmest possible way. The film suggests that it’s always darkest just before the dawn – if the dawn comes at all. wrote an interesting commentary on the film’s oscar prospects, analyzing both the commercial and financial restrictions of the film, and like Tapley, compares Weir to David Lean:

Weir’s film, set in 1940, does have a bleak atmosphere and is not an obvious sell for today’s “what’s the easy hook?” movie marketing. But it tells a fascinating tale of a small group of multinational prisoners who escape a snowy Siberian gulag. Their impossible trek of thousands of miles through five different dangerous countries follows. Although it’s been  fictionalized, it is inspired by the real-life tale of three men who turned up in India one day after reportedly making a similar journey.

It’s ironic that Weir was the recipient of BAFTA’s David Lean Award For Direction in 2004 because, if anything, The Way Back is reminiscent of the kind of ambitious and sweeping epic in which Lean excelled. Of course, if Lean were working in  today’s film industry, he probably wouldn’t be working.

Overall, the film appears to have positive prospects. It is currently slated for a January 21 release through Newmarket Films, however, it is likely to have an Oscar run prior to then. It looks thus far as Alex’s early pick is, at the bare minimum, a quality film, if not an awards film as well.

Tomorrow, Black Swan has its’ U.S. premeire at Telluride, this will add to the slate of what is quickly looking like a strong year at the annual festival and continue its’ reptuation as a jump start for the awards circuit.

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