Director Peter Weir succeeded in presenting Polish character and will in a positive way as well as modern history of Poland in a nutshell.
He transcended a long walk to freedom by a group of prisoners from the Soviet Gulag in Siberia into a walk to freedom by a Polish nation.
Peter Weir must be congratulated on creating an emotional and realistic human story as well as an epic movie about human determination to overcome its own weaknesses as well as nature brutality and hardship to achieve freedom.
We do not see such movies often nowadays in movie theaters filled by films selling violence and sex combined with stupidity and fantasy. Anything showing more realistic depiction of our lives is relegated to criminal dramas, psychological thrillers, and satires or comedies. Apparently, this is what sells a movie to a contemporary audience or this is rather what Hollywood thinks about contemporary movie goers. We could safely conclude that pornographization of the American popular culture has eroded our sense of values and tradition.
That’s why the Way Back stands out as a human drama among beautiful but unforgiving landscapes of Siberia, Gobi desert, Mongolian steppes, Tibet and finally Himalaya mountains.
Stalin’s prisoners such as Poles, Latvian priest, Russian criminal, and an American engineer escape to freedom to avoid inevitable death in Gulag. However, what drives them towards their successful escape is the Polish determination and resourcefulness combined with Christian humanity and team work. This humanity is even more emphasized in a Polish woman escapee from the Soviet collective farm who joins their walk to freedom. She is accepted by others and respected as a woman and another escapee from communist repression.
This is the most surprising element of this movie. Yes, it is based on Polish memoirs and true story, however, we are not used to see Poles as main characters in American movies depicted as heroes.
Peter Weir deserves even more credits for this breakthrough.