‘The Way Back’ again

Posted by · 9:51 am · October 27th, 2010

I took in a second screening of Peter Weir’s “The Way Back” last night after seeing and loving it at the Telluride Film Festival last month (enough to write about it a second time while I was there, in fact).  What was confirmed for me was that the majesty of the film and the overall sense of atmosphere Weir establishes and maintains makes it one of the very best films of the year.

A few other things stuck out, too.  I was always taken by Ed Harris’s “Mr. Smith” character and his fatherly relationship with Saoirse Ronan, but it’s a defining arc within the piece that is transcendent and could help make a solid case for Harris in the supporting actor race.

I was also struck by the makeup, which feels authentic and adds a notch of intrigue when this wound or that is revealed.  You’ll recall “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” was nominated in the field seven years ago for similar work.  Both of these aspects were touched on in the post-screening Q&A with Harris, producer/co-writer Keith Clarke, producer Joni Levin and executive producer (and longtime agent for Weir), John Ptak.

Speaking of the Best Supporting Actor race, I still think this is an exemplary performance from Colin Farrell that deserves to remain in that discussion.  It’s one of his best performances, hands down, one of his most organic and believable portrayals.

Let’s see, what else?  Oh, the score.  Man that didn’t hit me as heavily the first time.  Burkhard Dallwitz is really just working with a couple of pieces, but they’re gorgeous pieces.  It’s sweeping work that, if it came from a composer who seems to be in the Academy “club” as it were (it’s a very insular branch), then I’d have no problem predicting it.  He deserved a notice 12 years ago for “The Truman Show” in my book.

I’m really hopeful this film will be seen and appreciated by the Academy (not to fall too deep into advocacy).  It’s the kind of filmmaking that deserves a place in the 10, because who knows how much longer we’ll get epic independent endeavors like this.  They just don’t make them anymore.

Interestingly I got there later than most, so the better seats were taken and I had to settle on something closer to the screen.  At first I thought it would be a drag (and I tend to be a back row guy), but it’s a film and a breed of craftsmanship that just sucks you right in.  It felt like the best seat in the house.

And I remain dumbfounded that what shows up on the screen was brought in under budget for a meager $29 million.

Anyway, here’s that aforementioned Q&A, moderated by Deadline’s Pete Hammond as part of the KCET screenings series:

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→ 33 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

33 responses so far

  • 1 10-27-2010 at 9:59 am

    Jordan Raup said...

    Great impressions Kris, can’t wait to see this.

  • 2 10-27-2010 at 10:16 am

    billybil said...

    Yay Colin Farrell!!! I can’t wait to see this!

  • 3 10-27-2010 at 10:16 am

    Graysmith said...

    Wasn’t The Truman Show’s soundtrack quite a mish-mash though? Philip Glass was in on that. I own the CD, I just remember it being quite a bit all over the place, in terms of who made the music.

  • 4 10-27-2010 at 10:19 am

    Graysmith said...

    Anyway, getting really excited about this movie. I just hope they can/will get the word out there in time to be a serious contender.

  • 5 10-27-2010 at 10:38 am

    Michael said...

    This just is not my type of movie, but your well written thoughts on the film have made me very curious to give it a chance and see it in theaters. Like you have mentioned, this seems like a film from another era (not saying that it is antiquated or anything) that rarely gets made any more. A film like this being nominated for best picture would give that category some much needed balance and if it is deserving (as you have indicated) then I wouldn’t have a problem with any praise it gets.

    And just for clarification purposes with what I mean by this film not being my type of film, my five favorite films I have seen so far this year in order of preference are: Enter the Void, Let Me In, Dogtooth, Monsters, and The Social Network. But I still try to see all of the Oscar-nominated films (or the ones trying to get nominations) b/c I like to be in the know during the ceremony, even if many of the films that do get nominations are not films that I really love that much.

  • 6 10-27-2010 at 10:40 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Well, The Truman Show score in general deserved some love. There.

  • 7 10-27-2010 at 10:47 am

    pilfering monk said...

    Kris…could this film be considered a genuine dark horse to win Best Picture, or does it have zero shot at the top prize?

    Unless True Grit and/or The Fighter are absolutely outstanding, it appears only The King’s Speech and The Social Network have a legitimate shot at winning Best Picture. Do you think The Way Back could be more up the Academy’s alley then those two films? I suspect TSN might not be everyone’s cup of tea, so I’m wondering if Weir’s film might have an outside shot. They have a history of rewarding sprawling, epic style filmmaking.

  • 8 10-27-2010 at 11:02 am

    JJ1 said...

    Kris, what were impressions at this screening? Do you have any inside word on it going over well?

  • 9 10-27-2010 at 11:06 am

    Diane said...

    I was surprised not to read anything about Jim Sturgess’ performance in your review — I understood his role is the backbone of the film. How do you see his chances for a possible BEST ACTOR nom?

  • 10 10-27-2010 at 11:10 am

    Patriotsfan said...

    Other than The Truman Show, which is a great film, I’m not a big fan of Peter Weir’s work. I was especially disappointed by Master and Commander, which I found boring and dry. Is this movie very similar to Master and Commander?

  • 11 10-27-2010 at 11:18 am

    JJ1 said...

    For as long & slow as Master & Commander is, I also found it extremely immersive. The same can not be said for many other long, slow films.

  • 12 10-27-2010 at 11:22 am

    Angry Shark said...

    Patriotsfan, I hate you. Nothing personal, it’s just that Master and Commander is one of my favorite movies ever (best bromance? I think so), and I would be willing to knife fight anyone who disses it.
    :D

  • 13 10-27-2010 at 11:25 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Diane: I’ve actually addressed this a few times. Sturgess is great, but it’s not a typical showy leading man turn (which is very much by design), so I think it’ll be tough for him to find room. Never say never, though.

    Patriotsfan: Yes, it is similar to Master and Commander, which is a brilliant film. But it probably is closest to Gallipoli.

  • 14 10-27-2010 at 11:44 am

    Diane said...

    Thanks for the quick response. Sadly, not many who speak of TWB’s Oscar potential even acknowledge that Jim is the leading man in this film, especially since he’s still somewhat of an unknown to many audiences. Its frustrating to continually read “starring Colin Farrell” when I’m sure Jim gave his heart and soul to this role.

    As for “Master and Commander,” rest easy Patriotsfan, I’ve got your back. The film is a true masterpiece in male bonding relationships – bromance indeed!!! I adored Crowe & Bettany in this one…and it is Weir at his finest.

  • 15 10-27-2010 at 11:48 am

    Diane said...

    Sorry — made a mistake, its ANGRY SHARK who I’m agreeing with, NOT Patriotsfan. My bad.

  • 16 10-27-2010 at 12:25 pm

    N8 said...

    it totally sucks that we have to wait until January to see this.

  • 17 10-27-2010 at 2:20 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Oh, one other thing. The sound mix is great. And LOUD at times, without sacrificing anything. I could see it make it in easy.

  • 18 10-27-2010 at 2:33 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    God, how long has it been since I’ve seen a truly great old-fashioned epic?

    I have no doubt that this will be excellent (or at least good), since Master & Commander was a new high for him.

  • 19 10-27-2010 at 3:13 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Geez, at this rate, if it’s loved, TWB could get 9-11 noms. Seems extremely well-rounded.

  • 20 10-27-2010 at 3:14 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Any estimation on how long the film is?

  • 21 10-27-2010 at 3:28 pm

    Red said...

    Can’t wait to see this. I love me an epic movie.

    And the title to this post reminds me of “High Hopes, although the Nightwish cover, not Pink Floyd.

  • 22 10-27-2010 at 3:34 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    It might be just over two hours, JJ. Didn’t clock it. Nothing massive but a hearty film.

  • 23 10-27-2010 at 3:41 pm

    matsunaga said...

    I hope this will be Weir’s year.. He deserves the Best Director award more than anyone else in contention… It’s about time…

  • 24 10-27-2010 at 3:44 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Thanks, Kris. And ditto, matsunaga.

  • 25 10-28-2010 at 5:23 am

    Hero said...

    Kris,
    Should I save the Q&A and listen to it after I’ve seen the movie?

  • 26 10-28-2010 at 10:21 am

    MaybeLater said...

    Hero: There are spoilers in the Q & A

  • 27 10-28-2010 at 10:53 am

    Patriotsfan said...

    Apparently I touched a nerve with Master and Commander. I had no idea it had such loyal fans. Frankly, I had forgotten about the film until Kris put up the poll on “what’s your favorite Weir film”. I didn’t hate the movie, but I remember when it was coming out that I was really looking forward to it and felt let down afterward. I remember thinking that Paul Bettany did a good job, but the rest of the movie was too in love with its “epic scale”.

    I know Kris is pretty sad about these sort of “epic” movies disappearing, but I won’t miss them all that much. There not terrible, but I can’t think of one that I really love outside of “Lawrence of Arabia”, and the main reason I love that film so much is because of its intimate look at the psychological motivations of Lawrence, not its epic scale.

  • 28 10-28-2010 at 12:11 pm

    JJ1 said...

    To me, I like to have the balance. Of course I crave the smaller, more independent films that highlight acting, nuance, & off-beat storytelling. But my favorite genre has always been the epic. They always impress me the most; when done well, naturally. I’ll take a great epic over a great ‘Winter’s Bone’ anyday. I really hope they don’t disappear.

  • 29 10-28-2010 at 12:12 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Maybe it’s because epics are what I grew up on.

  • 30 10-28-2010 at 1:30 pm

    Hero said...

    Thanks, MaybeLater.

    Also, count me in on the Epics Are Awesome bandwagon.

  • 31 10-28-2010 at 7:15 pm

    Kurt said...

    Kris…I was so enthralled by Russell Boyd’s cinematography in Master and Commander. I had a feeling with this kind of story he may even be able surpass that work.
    Was the cinematography some of his best work ?
    I called this years predicted cinematography Oscar nominees as…

    Roger Deakins- True Grit
    Russell Boyd- The Way Back
    Wally Pfister- Inception
    Anthony Dod Mantle- 127 Hours
    Bob Richardson- Shutter Island

  • 32 10-29-2010 at 12:38 am

    Koto said...

    >Sturgess is great, but it’s not a typical showy leading man turn (which is very much by design),

    Glad to hear Sturgess is great in it.He is one of best young actors working today.But sadly his best works were just overlooked for a while.
    (I’d really appreciate it,if you see “Fifty Dead Men Walking” someday.And his new film Philip Ridley’s “Heartless”(Eddie Marsan,Timothy Spall are among co-stars.)These are Sturgess’s best works alongside of work of TWB and more showy leading man turn)