You would think a movie inspired by the true-ish story of gulag escapees who walked from Siberia to India would be, if nothing else, emotionally exhausting. But The Way Back is a placid, almost pleasant film, so reluctant to offend that it fails to engage. After fleeing a Soviet prison in the middle of a snowstorm, the gang of escapees encounters just about every hardship Mother Nature can throw at them—if they’re not shivering and starving on a wind-sheared Russian mountaintop, they’re hallucinating and dehydrating in the Mongolian desert (wearing, naturally, an assortment of seasonally appropriate headgear fashioned from shirts and animal skins). This is the sort of movie where, just when you’re beginning to wonder if you’re stuck with seven filthy convicts for the next hour and a half, a blonde, blue-eyed sylph wanders out of the forest to tend their bloodied feet and sing them Russian folk songs. Colin Farrell appears to be having great fun as a brutish thief with Lenin and Stalin tattooed on his chest; the rest of the cast, including Ed Harris, take themselves verrrry seriously. You won’t.
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