There is a feral intensity to Colin Farrell that seems difficult for directors to fully exploit on screen. It certainly makes for titillating gossipy chatter in the tabloids, complete with those intoxicating dark-eyed shots of him out carousing late nights, ready to attack photographers or the next pint.
Critics responded to him in Tigerland, but his appearance in Daredevil stands as my favorite role of his to date. As Bullseye, he captured the maniacal hunger, the sheer joy this villain garnered through his death-dealing talents.
He brings that same charged thrill to The Way Back, Peter Weir’s epic drama about a group of prisoners who escape from a Siberian gulag and walk 4,000 miles to India to secure their freedom.
Jim Sturgess and Ed Harris lead the way here, but it’s Farrell, as an unrepentant Russian who is ever-willing to use any and every weapon at his disposal to gain the upper hand, who dominates every frame he’s in. He invests his character with the necessary will to survive this kind of extreme situation. It’s not honor or even revenge that sustains, but something darker and more primal, and Farrell represents humanity when nothing but the desire to survive remains.
Of course, The Way Back seeks to distance itself from such animalistic urges, and since it is based on true events, draws power and inspiration from its righteous higher ground. Audiences would do well to remember that you need someone to guide you through the heart of darkness, and there might be no one better than Farrell on the scene. Grade: B