The Railway Man (15) - film review
Thursday 09 January 2014
Colin Firth gives one of his best performances in this muted but very touching adaptation of the autobiography of Eric Lomax, the former British army officer who was traumatised by what he endured in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Firth’s Lomax, as we first encounter him in 1980, is an eccentric with a passion for railways who spends his days either travelling or with his cronies in the Veterans Club at Berwick-upon-Tweed. He begins an unlikely romance with Patti (Nicole Kidman), a former nurse he meets, Brief Encounter-style, on a train journey. Gradually, we realise just how damaged Lomax is by what he endured as a PoW on the Burma Railway. In flashbacks, we see the young Lomax (played by Jeremy Irvine) building a radio in the camp and then being tortured by Japanese officer Takashi Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada) once the contraption is discovered.
There are many subtle shifts in tone in the storytelling. The early scenes suggest a romantic drama but the mood darkens. Kidman’s Patti tries desperately to discover what is causing Lomax’s sudden, violent swings in mood. He won’t speak to her about the past and so she relies on the reminiscences of his colleague Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård), who has his own demons to exorcise.
There are inaccuracies (as a Scottish-born railway enthusiast, Lomax should know how to pronounce “Tyndrum” correctly) but the film has a toughness about it you don’t initially anticipate. Firth captures equally well both Lomax’s essential decency and the violent hatred of his Japanese captors that takes him so long to overcome.
Director Jonathan Teplitzky, 116 mins Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Hiroyuki Sanada, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Irvine
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