The Railway Man (2013)

Biography, Drama
Jeremy Irvine, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Michael MacKenzie
A former British Army officer, who was tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II, discovers that the man responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and sets out to confront him.
  • The Weinstein Company Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 11 Apr 2014 Released:
  • N/A DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Frank Cottrell Boyce (screenplay), Andy Paterson ( Writer:
  • Jonathan Teplitzky Director:
  • N/A Website:

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A remarkable examination of a challenging topic10/10
Saw this film at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Teplitzky's film is primarily an attempt at an exploration of the male psyche of men of the WWII generation, as they cope with PTSD, told through a true life story about torture, war crimes, loss, honour, and forgiveness. The protagonist, brilliantly portrayed by Colin Firth, is set apart as an unusual archetype right from the beginning of the movie, practically specifying that he is almost certain to cope with his condition and the circumstances that unroll as the plot thickens in an exceptional, but not necessarily an unexpected way. A story with any different ending is unlikely to be told this way, but the ending brings a pleasant surprise of greater magnitude than one would expect from a true story. The concepts of honour and valour lurk throughout the film, and the movie reaches its climax beautifully when the irony about honour is finally exposed in what was nothing short of a heartfelt and memorable admission of wrongdoing. This story is likely to resonate well with anyone, from any generation and cultural background.
An astonishing story about two former enemies in a lesser-known front of World War II10/10
The Pacific theater of the second world war is often characterized by a number of such decisive battle fields as Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The Railway Man is a reminder of the madness of war that reached beyond those well-known battle fields and the profound effects it had on individuals who fought in the Southeast Asia region.

Colin Firth embodies the suffering of Eric Lomax, a veteran who still experiences post-traumatic nightmares decades after the war. Nicole Kidman plays his wife Patti with utmost grace and compassion, and Stellan Skarsgard's portrayal is nothing short of perfection as he plays the fellow veteran who is also torn by his friend's immeasurable pain. Rounding out the strong performances is Hiroyuki Sanada's Nagase, a former translator of the Imperial Japanese Army who took considerable part in Eric's torture.

While the flashback scenes led by younger actors (Jeremy Irvine and Tanroh Ishida) could use some improvements, the current post-war scenes are recreated to near perfection with mature performances from the more experienced cast members. It is also noteworthy that the film does not hesitate for a moment to refute the wrong notion associated with "tragedy of war," a term often misused to make a war sound as if it were a mere chance event and not a product of malice. The film makes it clear the pain inflicted upon Eric Lomax is nothing but an act of crime, and from that accord comes an unusual relationship between two former enemies that only a film based on a true account can deliver.
Love and redemption: great themes8/10
Last week I saw American HUSTLE and couldn't understand why the critics have so raved about it. Yesterday I saw THE RAILWAY MAN and can't understand why the critics have been so dismissive. It's a tense story about one of the great horrors of World War Two. Based on a true story, it's also a tale of love and redemption, two of the cinema's (and literature's) greatest themes. And it serves up a vivid reminder that the Japanese of the 1940s were, like the Nazis, from a different generation, almost from a different race.

David Lean's BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI casts a huge shadow over this movie. THE RAILWAY MAN lacks the "majesty" of Lean's famous epic, but I suspect that Alex Guinness's performance would seem very theatrical by the standards of screen acting today. If anything, Colin Firth gives a slightly under-powered performance (and Nicole Kidman's part gives her too little to work with), but Jeremy Irvine is intensely believable as the wartime Lomax, geeky and quietly heroic. The horrors of the forced labour that built the railway and the relentless brutality of the Japanese soldiers are both vividly conveyed, and the ending manages to be poignant without trespassing into mawkishness.

This is a strange movie, grim but highly watchable. Arguably, it could have been tougher, more savage, but then it might be harder to sit through.
powerful and emotive WWII autobiographical tale of PTSD and triumph in adversity7/10
Saw this as a test screening some time ago but wasn't allowed to post until it was released, consequently I've not seen the finished film but the test version affected me quite a bit. Based on a true story - Eric Lomax (Firth) - was building the Thai/Burma railway WWII as a POW. The conditions were horrific, treatment atrocious and Lomax clearly suffered PTSD, although it wasn't diagnosed yet - the film was set in the 70s. In an attempt to lay ghosts of his past to rest he travels back to revisit the sites of his incarceration and comes face to face with a Japanese officer from that time who was central to his torture.

It's a grey, period-style, sombre film, there's little in the way of humour and the only colour at the beginning is Nicole Kidman's (more or less extraneous) role as the "love interest." Her role was apparently meant to be played by Rachel Weisz and I think that would have been a better choice, and it bugs me that Kidman is first listing on the credits when Lomax' role is the titular role, and it's HIS book that the film is based on. However, the synopsis puts emphasis on her standing by her man and seeing him through his adversity and she does, and is good in the role she is given, and in that she was well chosen played down in her looks to given some small-town glamour.

It's a slow pace and if you like bells and whistles and CGI rather than real life and emotions then don't bother with this... it's a gripping, sad, heartbreaking and heartwarming tale or triumph over adversity, courage and strength of spirit with an ending that if you don't have a tear in your eye then you are dead inside.

Colin Firth, I think, is well cast and plays stayed, rather eccentric and dull due to his brokenness extremely well. He is fascinated by railways and trains (which is surprising) since his experiences and we meet his love interest on a train. His emotions turn erratically and he suffered terrifying nightmares, working through the pain/suffering of his character with a quiet studied grace. The star turn in my opinion... and all at the test screening agreed... is Hiroyuki Sanada who played Lomax' nemesis as an adult. He had a very challenging role and was superb. He played his role with so much calm that you could believe his conversion experience and he made the tale come alive and be very believable. Nothing he did was superfluous and even the tiniest nuances of his actions were obviously deliberate and perfect, his facial expressions were... oh enough to make me weep in places. I'd like to see him get applauded for it - and will look out for him in other films (eg 47 Ronin). Stellan Skarsgard (always excellent) was good in the role he played but at the test screening we all questioned why someone without a heavy English accent was cast for the role of an English soldier in his middle age when in his young scenes the actor who played Finlay was quintessentially British with no explanation as to why he is suddenly Swedish, "After the war he went to Sweden and has lived there" would have done - maybe they've done that now. His character too was a tragedy, also not coping at all with life after war.

The young actors playing the tough scenes in Japan building the railway had the hardest roles and Jeremy Irvine and Sam Reid did their older selves proud in some quite harrowing scenes, and oftentimes they really did look emaciated, thin and on their last legs. The film pulls no punches but does leave the terrible experience that Lomax suffered as a cliff-hanger to the last.

A powerful film, not for the feint or lighthearted, I fear, but certainly if you are interested in history, and enjoy good performance led character pieces you will find this an excellent cinema-going experience. I do recommend taking something to dry your eyes with and stay to the end to learn about Lomax and Nagase - the real people. The truth in the story adds so much more to the film.
What would you do if you came face to face with your enemy?9/10
Words cannot do this film justice. There are no words to describe how amazing the true story of Eric Lomax really was, and I do not want to give away the entire story here. But suffice to say that I was fully engrossed in the film throughout its entirety. From the moment we see Eric and Patty meet to the emotional ending,I could not bring myself to look away or even to reach down for my drink in the cinema. Be prepared for some harrowing and intense scenes. But bear in mind that these are required for us to understand completely the dilemma faced by Eric at the end of his story. The actors portray their characters beautifully, with so much angst and emotion that I found myself empathising with them all the way through. If you are interested whatsoever in stories of war, survival, trauma, revenge, forgiveness and the ethical dilemmas wrapped up in them all, then this is a film you should definitely see. Tears rolled down my face as the credits rolled, and I found myself thinking about the movie long after watching it. Highly recommended.