Movie Review: The Way Back (2010)

the way back poster

The background of The Way Back is as interesting as the film itself. It is loosely based on the book The Long Walk (1955) by Slawomir Rawicz, who was a Polish POW in the Soviet Gulag.  Controversy dates back to when the book was first published as there was no evidence that the events really happened, much less were truthful encounters of Rawicz himself. These two issues have boiled over for decades and probably will never be entirely put to rest. BBC claims that the alleged escape is in fact not his true story as he was released and did not take part in such a prison break. Instead, the events are said to be of another man, Polish WW2 veteran Witold Gliński, who’s claims will probably continue to be questioned as well. Investigations by BBC and the director, Peter Weir, suggest Glinski’s claims are true.

Siberian gulag escapees walk 4000 miles overland to freedom in India.” (IMDb)

So the movie is not an adaptation of the book but rather an inspired piece of (fictional) work. With that being said, this noise and controversy behind the book/film should not diminish the story much less our history in any way.The film is a drama set in the middle of a war and invasion about a group of prisoners who escape form Siberia and embark on ‘the long walk’ to India. This 4000-mile journey was the equivalent of survival and freedom. Languages in the film include English, Polish and Russian and it was shot in Bulgaria, Morocco and India. The Way Back is a human story with depth as it plays on faith, instinct and raw emotion. The film not only focuses on the journey and on the people taking the journey as everyone in the diverse cast pull off remarkable performances. The journey itself is larger than life with stunning visuals and harsh nature.

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Starring: Jim Sturgess // Colin Farrell // Ed Harris // Saoirse Ronan

Reviews: Rotten Tomatoes // Meta Critic // Screen Rant // Twitch Film

aparoo’s words: war, invasion, prison, encampment, life, death, survival, freedom, peace, journey

aparoo says 5/5

Stream: YouTube part 1 // part 2

photo credit: Google Image Search

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Movie Review: The Children of Huang Shi (2008)

tcohs poster

The Children of Huang Shi is a biopic or based on fact film about a British journalist, George Hogg, who battled his own wars in an effort to save a group of Chinese orphans during the Japanese invasion of China. Saying it was just an “effort” must be an understatement, as he endeavoured to take them across China towards the Gobi dessert (some 700 miles away) as the war-stricken zones expanded. Protecting the innocent turns into desperation to save them — as they would be subject to conscription by Chinese Nationalists to fight the Japanese. The film proves well in depicting an emotional journey, a humanitarian story and unique perspective of war.

Synopsis

childrenofhuangshi

“The Children of Huang Shi” a story of eastern “Schindler’s List” (problogs)

“About young British journalist, George Hogg, who with the assistance of a courageous Australian nurse, saves a group of orphaned children during the Japanese occupation of China in 1937. ” (IMDb)

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Mixed reviews come largely from two views: first being that the film is beautiful yet boring (lacking dramatic tension) — which to me just says a political & war drama with a humanitarian story at the core is not always “for” everyone. Secondly, some misrepresentations of facts by way of leaving out a character — which I say is a justified argument. All in all, the film aims to tug on your heart strings by showing just how much a person can really do — to make a difference. The star-studded cast, and their performances, hold up against the magnitude of the true-story and historical importance and are the cherry-on-top element to this epic film and story of war-ravaged China.

Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode

Cast: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers // Radha Mitchell // Chow Yun-fat // Michelle Yeoh // Guang Li

Reviews: Political Film Society // Metacritic // Rotten Tomatoes // NY Times

aparoo’s words: drama, war, human, China, Japan, Sino-Japanese War, WW2, orphans, innocent, rebellion, Nationalists, invasion, survival

aparoo facts: the film is largely in English with some Chinese & Japanese language

aparoo facts: the film is a production between USA, China, Germany & Australia

aparoo says 4/5

Official Website

Official stills

Alternative posters

photo credit: movieinsider.com // slantmagazine.com

Movie Review: The Message (2009) – Chinese Movie

the message cover

The Message (Feng Sheng) is an espionage-thriller set in a Japanese-invaded China during WW2 that depicts intelligence warfare between government and resistance. The Japanese-controlled puppet government faces casualties by way of assassinations orchestrated by resistance spies, thus a Commander uses the tactic of ‘feeding the mole’ to weed the spy out. The task of sending out false intel and tracing it is the easy part, as the film focuses on the confinement and interrogation of suspects. A little psychological cat-and-mouse play quickly becomes gruesome torture in order to uncover a guilty confession. The movie definitely makes you question characters and relationships as the stars pull off a unique ensemble.

Tension is high throughout as the amount of apparent ‘sides’ is unclear when comrade-suspects are pitted against each other. Lines quickly blur and clues or assumed clues add to the confusion. But it’s an enjoyable confusion. Whoever the code-breaking spy is also has to send out a message about the predicament without being compromised — or killed. The antagonizing and evil Commander and his Chinese underling do everything in their power and everything imaginable (or unimaginable) to pin the tail on the donkey. The Message is engaging and explicitly powerful in showing duress vs. integrity. It tried a bit hard when it comes to being eerie and dark ie. haunted mansion or animated evil villains but is entertaining even with over the top elements. More so, there’s a good chance viewer suspicions will get ahead of themselves for better or worse.

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Synopsis

Posters

Directed by: Qunshu Gao // Kuo-fu Chen

Starring: Xun Zhou //Hanyu Zhang // Bingbing Li // Xiaoming Huang // Zhiwen Wang

Reviews: CN Reviews // Love HK Film // Twitch // Variety // Opionator

aparoo recommends: Lust, Caution — another entertaining espionage-thriller

aparoo’s words: espionage, thriller, drama, spies, government, resistance, war, invasion, torture

aparoo says 4/5

Download: Asia Torrents

photo credit: asiatorrents.com // themessage2009.com // ent.people.com.cn