The scenes of brute survival - hunting for food, improvising shelter, making wind-and-snow masks out of sheets of birch bark - are vivid. The men are not.
Lisa Schwarzbaum - Entertainment Weekly
It's impossible not to cry at their suffering, but whether you'll feel anything is another story.
Manohla Dargis - New York Times
There are exhilarating moments, and there are some undeniably tense scenes. Mixed in, however, is possibly more trudging than you're going to see in any other film.
Claudia Puig - USA Today
Weir's movie is superbly made, but its fancy-dancing around history gives a hint of inauthenticity to a film that otherwise thrives on its reverence for historical detail.
Dan Kois - Washington Post
The movie's grueling, inspiring, astonishing to look at. You come out feeling you've traveled half the planet. As ordeal movies go, though, this one's oddly easy to shake off.
Ty Burr - Boston Globe
There's even a sense in which the movie is about its own logistics, although it would take a fanatic like Werner Herzog to turn that into compelling cinema.
J. Hoberman - Village Voice
How many new ways can you dramatize icy gales, parched deserts, agonizing thirst, shimmering mirages? And how do you step up the pace of a story that's about people walking?
Joe Morgenstern - Wall Street Journal
Gorgeous to look at, and a matter-of-fact paean to the possibility of human decency, The Way Back makes the genre-juggling dream quest of Inception look like child's play.
Kathleen Murphy - MSN Movies
The abiding sensation, at the end, is one not of fulfillment but of exhaustion.
Anthony Lane - New Yorker
Not every incredible story makes a compelling movie.
Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times
Weir and editor Lee Smith seem preoccupied with hustling events along, and nervous about boring us for even a second. The result is a brisk trot through a story that is, at heart, a tough slog.
Michael Phillips - Chicago Tribune
Whether it is truth, fiction or, most likely, a little of each, the story Weir tells is a powerful parable of man's charge for freedom and his humbling by nature.
Carrie Rickey - Philadelphia Inquirer
"The Way Back" is a return to the historical epics of David Lean, a story of survival under unthinkable physical and spiritual hardship.
Colin Covert - Minneapolis Star Tribune
No one will go away disappointed or indifferent. It's a movie that sticks with you like Elmer's glue.
Rex Reed - New York Observer
An impressive but not especially immersive true story of four POWs who escaped the Siberian Gulags and crossed the Himalayas on foot to freedom.
Peter Debruge - Variety
The film largely misses its opportunities to reflect the enormity of communism, choosing instead the route of a conventional adventure yarn.
Kyle Smith - New York Post
Despite a strong cast that includes Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan, we never really get to know any of the sloggers.
Peter Howell - Toronto Star
Eventually the film itself is something of an endurance test, and not as rewarding as it hopes to be. But it's a worthy venture, earnest and well-produced and occasionally gripping.
Eric D. Snider - Film.com
The Way Back is fascinating until it becomes an ordeal.
Rick Groen - Globe and Mail
A harrowing epic that will not be an easy sell, but it finds Weir again working at the top of his game.
Stephen Farber - Hollywood Reporter
The Way Back represents an exquisite example of style over substance, of vast visuals dwarfing the characters and nearly swallowing the story whole.
Christy Lemire - Associated Press
The overall metaphor Weir was aiming for - this idea of enemies so powerful and a war so menacing and confusingly big that no place seems safe except a place absurdly far away - comes through clearly and stays with you.
Mary F. Pols - TIME Magazine
This artful tale of survival against the elements - radiating terror and beauty - continues Peter Weir's fascination with characters trapped by worlds they didn't make.
Peter Travers - Rolling Stone
That a production this ambitious has been financed and distributed outside the studio system throws a curveball to anyone who thinks "independent film" can mean only urban moderns sitting in an apartment bemoaning their ennui.
Mark Olsen - Los Angeles Times
A gorgeously mounted epic that for all its virtues feels maddeningly remote.
Sean Burns - Philadelphia Weekly
The Way Back is an inspiring story that is beautifully photographed and full of interesting and well acted characters.
Amy Curtis - We Got This Covered
Like its characters, this drama plods along but its compelling plot makes it worth seeing.
John Hanlon - Big Hollywood
"The Way Back" is a boring movie. Repetitive, protracted and wearisome. Mostly, though: It's just long.
Will Leitch - Deadspin
a solid, resonant meditation on survival, on hope, on the value of life in the face of implacable hostility, portrayed memorably by an excellent cast and [Director] Weir's vast, brutal, awe-inspiring landscapes
Jay Antani - Cinema Writer
An old fashioned survival yarn, beautifully shot and well-told.
Script-wise, there is nothing truly revelatory here, but the patient viewer will be rewarded by a film of unique awe and heart wrenching wonder.
Bruce Bennett - Spectrum (St. George, Utah)
However, among solid performances, beautiful locations, and a truly harrowing journey, this film left me feeling empty.
Grae Drake - Movies.com
It's unfortunate that Peter Weir's first film in seven years, although a remarkable story, by its very nature risks tediousness.
Annlee Ellingson - Moving Pictures Magazine
This is a perfect example of the well-made (from acclaimed director Peter Weir), well-acted and well-everything-elsed film that you watch, admire and then hope to never lay eyes on again.
Dave White - Movies.com
Fernando F. Croce - CinePassion
There is a limit to how many times one human can watch toothless, malnourished men stumble around the desert bitching about communism and a lack of borscht.
Marc Fennell - Triple j
An exceptional adventure story from one of the founding fathers of Australia's modern cinema.
Jim Schembri - The Age (Australia)
It may not seem like much of a compliment to say a movie makes you feel like you've walked 4,000 miles, but "The Way Back" puts you in its characters' tattered shoes and makes you care whether they make it home or not.
Rob Thomas - Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Visually, as with all Peter Weir's films, this is really outstanding and really quite memorable.
David Stratton - At the Movies (Australia)
It's an uncompromising film, necessarily episodic in its depiction of the group's quest for survival, but mesmerizingly involving.
Margaret Pomeranz - At the Movies (Australia)
The characters are so underdeveloped that there exists no real relationship between them on screen or in fact between characters and the audience.
Beth Wilson - Trespass
full review at Movies for the Masses
Joseph Proimakis - Movies for the Masses
An epic tale of mind, body, and spirit, The Way Back looks at the other side of WWII atrocities, and marks the return of master filmmaker Peter Weir.
Matthew Pejkovic - Matt's Movie Reviews
Despite an epic premise and the fine talent involved, the characters are under-written and the drama never soars.
Mark Demetrius - FILMINK (Australia)
As dreary as the film is, it draws you in with its captivating, yet sober, cinematography and the solid performances of the cast.
Glynn Morgan - Moviedex
A great escape leads to a harrowing test of endurance.
Don Groves - sbs.com.au
It's not the sort of prison escape movie that Hollywood makes these days: it's more subtle, more moody, more restrained and it has no histrionics
Andrew L. Urban - Urban Cinefile
..extreme challenge of human endeavour that ends with an overwhelming flush of emotion
Louise Keller - Urban Cinefile
A beautifully hewn, honest and courageous film. It's Man Vs. Wild, for real.
Alice Tynan - Concrete Playground
The Way Back is an epic adventure with enough humour to keep it from feeling dour but enough realism to make it really feel like everything is at stake.
Tim Martain - The Mercury
Weir has always loved atmospheric locales and group dynamics, and here he makes the most of both
Rafer Guzman - Newsday
This incredible adventure, with outstanding cinematography and amazing locations, just may be based on a true story. Then again, it may not.
Linda Cook - KWQC-TV (Iowa)
Weir has made an admirable work, but he should have created more interaction amongst his characters.
Neil Rosen - NY1-TV
Part The Great Escape and part Lawrence of Arabia, it is ambitious in scope, grand in vision and rich with examples of the resilience of the human spirit.
Mike Scott - Times-Picayune
This is an impressive production and technical feat, but through most of it, I kept thinking about how difficult the filming conditions must have been, and not about the lives of the men in front of me.
Rene Rodriguez - Miami Herald
he long stretches between stations make The Way Back an arduous road.
Joe Williams - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Paul Younger - ScreenRant
Rife with uncertainty and realism, Weir's film is a stunning testament to human fortitude and to the power of Mother Nature.
Christopher Smith - Bangor Daily News (Maine)
The Way Back fails to connect on the all-important visceral, emotional level.
Marc Savlov - Austin Chronicle
Elevates what might have been an adolescent adventure story...with good taste, high-mindedness and elegence, even if the result is just a bit prosaic and emotionally detached.
Frank Swietek - One Guy's Opinion
A testament to the determination of the human spirit but the characters are fairly indistinguishable and the plot is just one foot in front of another
Jackie K. Cooper - jackiekcooper.com
Peter Weir makes this wartime tale a sleek, rousing, old-fashioned adventure instead of a somber, self-important epic slog.
Jeffrey M. Anderson - Common Sense Media
The current reigning top of the heap tribute to the human spirit.
Ron Wilkinson - Monsters and Critics
The Way Back is smartly-made, carefully-paced adventure movie. It goes where many other films have gone before, but it never feels like it's just going through the motions.
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky - Ebert Presents At The Movies
A splendidly roughhouse yarn.
Kelly Vance - East Bay Express
Freedom proves to be a very delicate value, and a very exacting reality. This is not a film to approach lightly.
Cole Smithey - ColeSmithey.com
- National Post
Indeed, when three of the men finally set foot on Indian soil, there is an underwhelming sense of achievement by the audience.
David Kaplan - Kaplan vs. Kaplan
The result is a film that seems simultaneously grand and skimpy. For all its faults, it's an honorable effort, though. I hope Weir doesn't wait seven more years for his next film.
Peter Rainer - Christian Science Monitor
There's little human conflict; Sturgess never doubts himself, and the men mostly get along; even Farrell's gangster is on best behavior.
Stephen Whitty - Newark Star-Ledger
...a fine adventure story with breathtaking cinematography of magnificent landscapes.
Tony Medley - Tolucan Times
There's an enjoyably old-fashioned brand of adventure at work here, when Weir doesn't handcuff himself with Red scare politics and maudlin sentimentality. The former outweighs the latter, but only just barely.
Ian Buckwalter - NPR.org
You'll forget the whole picture the minute you leave the theatre, but for the two hours you're sitting there in the dark, it's mildly, and pleasantly engaging.
Liz Braun - Jam! Movies
Humanity is dwarfed by landscape, but the effect is more pictorial than revealing.
John Beifuss - Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
[E]xcruciatingly punishes impressive international ensemble. [U]npredictable who will make it through each challenge [that] brings human perspective to a large continent.
Nora Lee Mandel - Film-Forward.com
Weir and cowriter Keith R. Clarke resist the temptation to add Hollywood happy endings to Rawicz's story.
Margot Harrison - Seven Days
At times it's grueling, and even difficult to watch, but it's a remarkably powerful film.
Chris Bumbray - JoBlo's Movie Emporium
[The actors give] with warm performances from everyone involved, especially Farrell as a dangerous, but boisterous misfit.
Jeffrey M. Anderson - Combustible Celluloid
Just as admirable are the film's unsparing depiction of the hardships caused by terrain and temperature, its palpable sense of physicality and a lack of sentimentality compared to most of Hollywood's similarly inspirational profiles in courage.
Jason Anderson - eye WEEKLY
As they walk through the desert, I was hoping a pack of wild, rabid camels would attack them and eat them to get this movie over with.
Willie Waffle - WaffleMovies.com
"The Way Back" seems like it could have been made 40 or 50 years ago, and I mean that in a good way.
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul) - St. Paul Pioneer Press
At its heart, it's an adventure story and exotic travelogue, inviting viewers to tag along as an unlikely band of fugitives from a Siberian gulag walk across the Himalayas.
James Verniere - Boston Herald
It's a visually arresting adventure, but it arrives at its final destination with little dramatic resonance.
Ethan Alter - NYC Film Critic
Whether it's true or not, this portrait of desperate, determined people surviving blizzards and dust storms and crossing mountains and deserts is a gruff and uplifting celebration of how much people can take and how much they value freedom.
Mick LaSalle - San Francisco Chronicle
The Way Back works well enough as a sprawling adventure of unimaginable hardship. The rugged vistas (it was filmed in Bulgaria, India and Morocco) are impressive. But it feels just a bit underpopulated.
Robert W. Butler - Kansas City Star
The film is long and deliberate and slow of pulse -- quite appropriately. But Weir is a real filmmaker, and he handles vast landscapes and delicate death scenes with equal doses of invention, vitality, dignity and taste.
Shawn Levy - Oregonian
By the time the four survivors finally arrive in warm and welcoming India, our relief exceeds their own.
Kurt Loder - Reason Online
The gulag scenes also are vividly sketched. Sadly, the personal dramas often feel stock and static by comparison.
Duane Dudek - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
This doesn't sound like a lot of fun to watch, but Weir - in his first movie since 2003's "Master and Commander" - makes it mesmerizing and occasionally lyrical.
Moira MacDonald - Seattle Times
A World War II prison break, survival, and morality tale about the power of forgiveness as an ideal to animate a lifetime.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat - Spirituality and Practice
Well-acted and artfully (though conventionally) made, The Way Back tells a compelling story, regardless of whether it's based on truth or a fabrication.
Nathan Rabin - AV Club
A two-hour-plus epic of survival and endurance that stretches six characters and a few patches of terse dialogue over 140 minutes of spectacular wide-screen landscapes.
Gary Thompson - Philadelphia Daily News
Weir's artisan's sureness grants a bewitching calm -- his trademark ambience -- to this harrowing tale.
Elvis Mitchell - Movieline
The Way Back goes to great lengths for authenticity, which is ironic considering its source is dubious. This is old-school monumental filmmaking, without CGI tricks or many soundstage comforts for a dedicated cast. David Lean would probably approve.
Steve Persall - Tampa Bay Times
Snow-covered trees, expansive mountains, intimidating desert; the film thrives on the brutal conditions of endless terrain.
Matt Pais - Metromix.com
It benefits from Weir's talent for big-canvas moviemaking, though the result is a commendable drama rather than a great one.
Betsy Sherman - Boston Phoenix
Director Peter Weir and his cast and crew journeyed to such locations as Bulgaria, Morocco and India to give the film a realism that borders on documentary.
Robin Clifford - Reeling Reviews
Immensely satisfying on nearly every level.
Katey Rich - CinemaBlend.com
It's an admirable and sweeping epic about a feat of human survival once thought factual, and the story is no less harrowing now that those facts have been called into question.
William Goss - Orlando Weekly
The story is inspiring and the filmmakers' intentions noble, but The Way Back too quickly loses its narrative direction.
Rex Roberts - Film Journal International
An old-fashioned, unpretentious epic that reliably gets where it needs to go.
Josh Bell - Las Vegas Weekly
Awe-inspiring, travelogue-like trek through hostile, challenging landscapes, it's a spectacular slog.
Susan Granger - SSG Syndicate
A movie with amazing scope but little drama. The level of tension in the film is like a toothache - constant, gnawing but not particularly enjoyable.
Marshall Fine - Hollywood & Fine
There's no question Weir knows how to construct a beautiful film.
Geoff Berkshire - Metromix.com
...an ensemble acting piece with strong, simple themes painted as a continually changing mural.
Laura Clifford - Reeling Reviews
Overlong, with interchangeable characters.
Harvey S. Karten - Compuserve
A subtly touching religiously oriented saga of compassion, conviction and absolution.
Nick Schager - Lessons of Darkness
Not an easy picture to endure, as Weir carefully examines every last step and troubled breath...A film that develops after viewing, taking time to sink in as fates are reconsidered and brave motivations are appreciated.
Brian Orndorf - BrianOrndorf.com
Wonderfully shot and convincingly acted, the picture shows what it takes to survive physically but struggles to get under the characters' skins psychologically.
Henry Fitzherbert - Daily Express
Landscape trumps character in The Way Back, just as the Siberian and Mongolian wilderness overwhelms the seven gulag escapees at the heart of Peter Weir's 1940-set film.
Andrew Schenker - Slant Magazine
Weir's The Way Back is a riveting film...
Ed Harris is as good as he's ever been as a taciturn convict, and the unsparing depiction of the depths to which the travellers sink hints at the punishing hymn to endurance the film might have been.
Andrew Lowry - Little White Lies
The story of a gruelling trek through sub-zero temperatures that is both visually stunning and dramatically chilly.
Siobhan Synnot - Scotsman
Colin Farrell as an amoral Russian gangster, Ed Harris as an enigmatic American and Saoirse Ronan as a vulnerable young woman all make enough of an impression to make us wish we knew more about them.
Christopher Tookey - Daily Mail [UK]
A dramatic story but not always one that engages as fully as it should. A sterling effort, not gold.
Derek Malcolm - This is London
The Way Back is a robustly made picture, heartfelt, well executed with an exhilarating sense of reach and narrative ambition. Where it falls down is a lack of personal intensity to match the spectacle.
It's all painstakingly done - but not quite as involving as it should be.
Philip Kemp - Total Film
As extraordinary as the real-life source material may be, Weir stumbles into too many cinematic triumph-over-adversity cliches and the film loses pace over its lengthy running time.
Terry Staunton - Radio Times
This epic-style movie is packed with emotion and adventure, although it also feels a little overlong and meandering, mainly due to the narrative itself.
Rich Cline - Shadows on the Wall
Director Peter Weir, whose last outing was the swashbuckling yarn Master & Commander, opts for an solid, unembellished approach...
Tim Evans - Sky Movies
The Way Back isn't much of a Christmas film, but it makes you glad to be indoors.
Leo Robson - Financial Times
Impressively directed, sharply written and beautifully shot, this is a powerfully emotional drama with terrific performances from Harris, Farrell and Sturgess.
Matthew Turner - ViewLondon
At 132 minutes, The Way Back is, appropriately, long and slow. And there's some stunning scenery, too.
Graham Young - Birmingham Post
It's good, but from this director we have come to expect great.
David Hughes - Empire Magazine
For all the film's occasional peaks, we're left with the sense of a story so incredible even this cinematic visionary is struggling to contain it on celluloid.
Trevor Johnston - Time Out
An awe-inspiring epic of man versus nature (inspired by true events during WWII) as a group of escaped prisoners run 40,000 miles over hostile terrain.
Stella Papamichael - Digital Spy
There are only so many ways you can frame a bunch of hairy men and a token girl stumbling over the prow of a hill while moaning about being thirsty, before it gets boring.
Robbie Collin - News of the World
Inspired by true story, Peter Weir's first film in 7 years is a WWII survival tale done in a too conventional (and a bit boring) mode, sacrificing particular characterizations for the sake of its more generic messgae.
Emanuel Levy - EmanuelLevy.Com
Brings a lot of talent and a tremendous amount of craft to a movie that will be too painful for most people to endure.
Eugene Novikov - Cinematical