The Time Out Film Guide
reviewed by WH

This co-production describes the horrors of Stalin's camps and Arctic gulags in the '40s from the perspective of a British archaeologist falsely arrested for spying. Andrei Miller, a Brit of Russian grandparentage, is pulled off his dig and cattle-trucked to Siberia, where an escape attempt adds 25 years to his sentence. Living down in life's base camp, his identity stripped to bare bone, he finds only love and friendship can save the spirit. This is basically a journey-through-hell movie, with scenes of Dore-like torment, dehumanising injustice, hunger, privation and terror. Most harrowing is the depiction of violence among prisoners. Here the film's style veers closer at times to the visceral expressionism of Alan Parker's Midnight Express than, say, to that of Caspar Wrede's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; what holds it back is the acrid whiff of authenticity. Despite the excesses, it's an impressive effort, with a strong, committed performance from Andrews as Miller.