Who's In It: Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Rionan, Mark Strong
The Basics: During World War II, Poland fell under both Stalin and Hitler's rule, resulting in the capture and sentencing of whoever they deemed to be threats. Of course the information was obtained from "witnesses" that were bullied into regurgitating whatever officials wanted them to say, and people were wrongfully imprisoned. In this film, based on the controversial novel "The Long Walk" by Slawomir Rawicz, Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is accused of being a spy and gets shipped off to a Siberian Gulag. There he meets a group of willful men who, like him, are determined to be free. They escape the Gulag and and walk on foot all the way to India, all the while facing their greater enemies: Mother Nature and The Human Spirit.
What's the Deal: Director Peter Weir is no slouch. His films are visually stunning and well-written, and this movie has those same elements. However, among solid performances, beautiful locations, and a truly harrowing journey, this film left me feeling empty. There was no joy in it, not even in the end when the survivors could finally rest as free men. I sat through 2 hours of people slogging through mud, storms, the desert, and the mountains. Is it too much to ask to feel happy or at the very least relieved when it's all over? Although the film does a great job of setting up their characters and creating tension, after a certain point the film becomes repetitive. I think that's where it sucked the life out of me--if I had to watch more rags being frantically twisted into waiting mouths for one drop of water, or see another gangrenous toe, I might have lost my mind. I understand that a film like this is less of a walk in the park and more of a walk in the Himalayas (read: treacherous), but it would have been nice to be able to exhale when the credits rolled.
In Desperate Need of Chap Stick: The makeup in this movie was phenomenal. As the journey progresses and becomes more and more distressing, these people begin to suffer from truly outrageous physical ailments. Burned, cracked skin, lice, swollen legs, and every podiatrist's nightmare: NASTY FEET. I found myself taken out of the movie marveling at the strength of the human body, and how it can endure overwhelming amounts of hardship in the name of survival. I could only imagine the countless hours this sizable cast spent in makeup getting ready to act malnourished and decrepit.
You Darn Kids Today: This film harkens back to a time when people were at one with the land and knew how to keep themselves alive in times of trouble. Newsflash everyone, we seriously lack that talent now. We are so disconnected from nature that when when the Apocalypse comes, most of us will be instantaneously wiped out. If you only know how to order pizza from your smart phone and diagnose trenchmouth with Web MD, you're in trouble. The people in this film, our ancestors, were strong and noble, and we are generally a bunch of privileged Jane Complainers. Been nice knowing ya.