Star rating - 6/10
There is no denying the impressiveness of the landscapes in this offering from Peter Weir, but from the director of such dramatically intriguing gems such as ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ I did expect a little more. It is the story, true or otherwise, which is somewhat disputed, of seven escapees from the incredibly harsh Siberian gulag prison under the Soviet Union of Stalin’s leadership.
The men battle against themselves, and the elements to survive the harshest climates, from frozen Siberian wastelands, to desert sandstorms, to cross from Siberia on weary foot right through the Himalayas to India. The group are led by Janusz, played by Jim Sturgess, and also include those veterans of movie making Colin Farrell, who is cast in a somewhat clichéd fashion as a lumpen criminal, and Ed Harris, as the elder statesman of the escape party.
The trouble with the film is that, as we are told in the opening frame, seven men battle against all odds in this escape bid, and only three make it through to the other side, the audience is inevitably busy ticking off the numbers to see what happens to the other four along the way. The plot is also a bit clunky, as when they meet a young girl who miraculously uses her feminine wiles to get the, up until then, fairly silent men to open up to each other and start to care and share a whole lot more.
I guess apart from the stunning scenery, there is not a whole lot you can do with the plot – they escape – they walk - and walk – and walk – and then make it through to freedom. As an escape from the Christmas festivities this film is harmless entertainment, but as an in depth piece of film making it is not particularly outstanding.