Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA/United Arab Emirates/Poland, 2010. Exclusive Films, National Geographic Films, Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Monolith Films, On the Road, Point Blank Productions, Polish Film Institute. Screenplay by Keith R. Clarke, Peter Weir, based on the novel The Long Walk: The True Story Of a Trek To Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz. Cinematography by Russell Boyd. Produced by Duncan Henderson, Joni Levin, Nigel Sinclair, Peter Weir. Music by Burkhard von Dallwitz. Production Design by John Stoddart. Costume Design by Wendy Stites. Film Editing by Lee Smith. Academy Awards 2010.
A group of prisoners in the Siberian gulag, all detained at Stalin’s pleasure, decide to attempt the impossible feat of escape. The infamous prison camp is in the middle of one of the harshest climates in the world and, as the guards explain, their work is done for them by the surrounding landscape. Still, this does not prevent these men and, eventually, one young woman from facing the worst of winter and the hardest desert heat to seek their freedom. Director Peter Weir makes a movie that is thankfully everything that Defiance was not: there is no mawkish sentimentality, no speeches about freedom, there is not even much talk from the men about what they are fighting for and why they deserve to escape, there is only the desire to move and fight for survival. Thanks to the intelligent direction and some incredibly good Oscar-nominated makeup that really makes the situation of ragged hardship come alive, the film is a sturdy experience that never grows tiresome. Performances are rather uneven, with Ed Harris among the best in putting his Mean Old Man personality to excellent use, while Colin Farrell is a weird casting choice as an immoral Russian thug (who is never convincingly scary), and Jim Sturgess and his sing-songy Polish accent as the main protagonist who leads the revolt. The supporting players, many of whom are actually eastern European, fare much better, but even the weakest link in the acting chain does no harm to this otherwise memorable film.