Writes Roger Ebert:
"…Peter Weir is a master filmmaker ("Picnic at Hanging Rock," "The Year of Living Dangerously," "Master and Commander"). His cinematographer Russell Boyd works both in tight quarters and with astonishing vistas at the roof of the world. The film is a visual feast. I am far from sorry I saw it.
"But along with characterization, there is one area in which it seems to be lacking: details of survival. How exactly did they survive death by exposure in subzero Mongolia? Why didn't some of their meat spoil? Where did they find water in the desert? How did their footwear hold up — and why, as prisoners, did they have boots?
"The answer, I fear, is that although "The Way Back" is described on its poster as "inspired by real events," it is fiction. The saga was first told in a book by Slavomir Rawicz, which was a European best-seller. But IMDb reports: "In 2006, the BBC unearthed records (including some written by Rawicz himself) that showed he had been released by the USSR in 1942."
"There is an irony here. The film exhibits an admirable determination to do justice to a real story, but the story's not real. There's quite an op-ed debate going on right now between those (Neal Gabler) who say the cultural elite is finally being shouted down by populists and vulgarians, and others (A.O. Scott) who say such categories are meaningless. You like movies according to your own tastes…"