Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Railway Man (Movie Review)

By Freda Cooper 08.01.2014 3

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Railway Man (Movie Review)

The Railway Man (UK Rating: 15)

In the 100th anniversary year of the start of World War I, any film about conflict will have additional poignancy and relevance.  Curiously, over the next couple of months, there are three movies specifically about the Second World War. The Monuments Men and The Book Thief are both released in February, but first there's Jonathan Teplitsky's The Railway Man, released in the UK on Friday, 10th January.

Based on the book by former POW Eric Lomax, it starts in the post-war years, with Lomax (Colin Firth) unexpectedly falling in love and marrying after a whirlwind courtship.  It's not long before his new wife Patti (Nicole Kidman) discovers that her husband is tormented by his wartime experiences and, with the help of one of his old army colleagues, discovers that the man responsible is still alive.  He offers the only way for Eric to come to terms with what happened to him.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Railway Man (Movie Review)

As the film progresses, a series of flashbacks reveal the reasons for Eric's torment. The conditions on the railway are, unsurprisingly, brutal but the source of his agony lies in torture. In today's parlance, it is water-boarding and it's shown in lengthy detail, making the scenes just as unflinching and uncomfortable as in last year's Zero Dark Thirty. Will the film suffer the same controversy and accusations as Kathryn Bigelow's? Thus far, the silence is deafening. In another year, this could have been an award contender, but the 2014 field is so strong that The Railway Man will be one of many also-rans, despite its considerable strengths.

Although it picks up from where The Bridge on the River Kwai left off, this is a film full of contemporary resonances. Apart from the water-boarding, there's the whole issue of the treatment of prisoners during war and the rehabilitation of the armed forces after the traumas of armed conflict. Eric is clearly suffering from PTSD, but he's living in 1950s Britain, so the term was unknown and the upper lip decidedly stiff…and its shortcomings as a way of coping are starting to show.

He isn't the only one having to confront his past, though - his torturer, Nagase, has become a tour guide at the former POW camp in an attempt to atone for his actions during the war. They both have to confront the possibility of revenge to be able to reject it and, while reaching an understanding is acutely painful for both of them, their eventual friendship reinforces a belief in humanity.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Railway Man (Movie Review)

As the older Lomax, Colin Firth yet again proves himself to be the master of repressed emotion. Nobody suffers with their eyes in quite the same way. He also perfectly captures his character's almost nerdy tendencies, to the extent that there are shades of Coronation Street's Roy Cropper: both are railway enthusiasts, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of minute details. Jeremy Irvine plays the younger Eric and, significantly, elected to do the torture scenes himself rather than use a stand-in; it's a thoughtful piece of acting. Not only does he look enough like Colin Firth to be a credible younger version, he's also captured the older character's speech patterns with pin-point accuracy.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
The Railway Man is powerful, serious and, sometimes, sombre but ultimately it's also uplifting. Like Philomena and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, it's about reconciliation, but this time the contemporary parallels are more evident and more likely to linger long after the film is over. Also, sadly, the questions asked by those parallels will have an even longer life.

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Colin Firth...really never sure what to make of him. Sure, I liked him in Bridget Jones, but after that he just seems, hmm...can't quite put my finger on it.

What made me laugh about this film is the trailer I saw, where he was in so many scenes, but didn't say one word! Smilie Made it look like his character just doesn't have any lines!

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

The trailer for The Railway Man is very strange!  It makes the film look like a love story and, while it does include a romantic element, that certainly isn't the driving force.  Just goes to show that trailers should be handled with care .......

Very true indeed - has totally put me off. Movies on my radar now: Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle.

Do you plan on reviewing any of those?

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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