The Way Back

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Way Back Movie Poster Image
Rousing but intense war/wilderness survival adventure.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 133 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The characters may be prisoners (and some of them do seem violent and dangerous), but they quickly learn to work together, help each other, and trust each other to overcome their nearly impossible challenges. There are plenty of examples of teamwork and empathy here.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character Janusz is the strongest role model. At one point, another character warns that "kindness can kill him," but Janusz proves that he can hang onto his humanity and his kindness in the most trying of circumstances. He'll risk his own safety to help others, and his example inspires the others. Plenty of sharing and working together to overcome the odds.

Violence

Disturbing imagery relating to both prison and wilderness survival. Characters are starving and thirsty, exhausted and dirty. Teeth fall out, feet are bleeding and/or swollen, and characters get sunstroke. Other brief violence involves a stabbing with a knife and some blood. A character freezes to death. There's a spoken story about a main character strangling a boy.

Sex

Very brief but strong sexual imagery. One of the prisoners makes drawings of naked women in various poses and trades them for supplies.

Language

Language is infrequent but includes more than one use of "f--k," plus sparing use of "s--t," "damn," and "ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters trade cigarettes in prison, but there's little actual smoking. In one scene, characters share a bottle of vodka around a campfire.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that because this rousing, World War II-era adventure film focuses on prison and wilderness survival, there's plenty of intense, disturbing imagery -- such as blood, sickness, starvation, and death. But at the same time, the movie has strong, inspiring messages related to teamwork, kindness, and overcoming challenges. Expect a bit of violence and infrequent but strong swearing (including "f--k"), as well as images of naked women in the form of drawings used as prison currency. Characters also trade cigarettes while they're imprisoned and, in one scene, share a bottle of vodka.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykhan2705 February 13, 2011

not that much emotionally involving but very epic like slow paced movie.

Directed by six-time Academy Award (R) nominee Peter Weir, THE WAY BACK is an epic story of survival, solidarity and indomitable human will. Shot in Bulgaria, M... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bywishucdb3Dlkme May 22, 2011
I thought this was a really great movie with a fantastic ending!!!!!!
Teen, 15 years old Written byTheSuperman765 April 16, 2011

check out my page for more great recomendations

The good stuff * Messages: The characters may be prisoners (and some of them do seem violent and dangerous), but they quickly learn to work tog... Continue reading

What's the story?

During World War II, Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is arrested and thrown into a Siberian gulag. With the help of more experienced inmates like Valka (Colin Farrell) and "Mr. Smith" (Ed Harris), seven prisoners manage a successful escape into the woods. Along the way, they pick up a runaway girl, Irena (Saoirse Ronan), despite worries that she'll slow them down. Against all odds, they survive the harsh, freezing elements and complete the long trek south to the Mongolian border. But circumstances are against them, and they discover that they must keep walking, through Mongolia and Tibet and into India, across the dry, brutal flatlands. How long can this ragtag band stay alive?

Is it any good?

As he did in the excellent Master and Commander, Australian director Peter Weir makes this wartime tale a sleek, rousing, old-fashioned adventure instead of a somber, self-important epic slog. He accomplishes that by focusing on the relationships between the men and taking a cue from old-time studio filmmakers like Howard Hawks.

THE WAY BACK is arguably less fun than Master and Commander, mainly because of the disturbing imagery (i.e. starvation, sickness, death, etc.) that inherently goes with prison movies and wilderness survival movies. But Weir makes it all bearable with his general swiftness and tone. The actors follow suit with warm performances from everyone involved, especially Farrell as a dangerous but boisterous misfit. In the end, teamwork, sharing, and kindness win out over violence and cruelty.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence and disturbing imagery. Was it necessary to the plot? Was it thrilling or upsetting? How did the movie achieve that reaction?

  • How do the characters change over the course of the movie? What do they learn?

  • Some of the male characters think that bringing a girl (Irena) along will slow them down. Is this a stereotype? Does Irena prove them wrong, or not? What do they learn from her?

Movie details

For kids who love adventure

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