THE RAILWAY MAN – A Review by John Strange



By: John ’Doc’ Strange

Directed by: Jonathan Teplitzky

Cast: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine, Stellan Skarsgaard, Hiroyuki Sanada, Sam Reid

MPAA Rating: R (for disturbing prisoner of war violence)

Selig Rating: FULL PRICE

Runtime: 108 Min.

In today’s world we are more accustomed to seeing our veterans dealing with PTSD.  Following WWII they really had no idea what this affliction was or how to deal with it.  The Railway Man is a film based on a true story; the story of young British Signals Lieutenant, Eric Lomax (Colin Firth / Jeremy Irvine (young Eric), who was part of the British forces captured by the Japanese in the Burma-Thailand region of Southeast Asia.

When the order to destroy their equipment is given, young Eric instead dismantles his receiver so that they can possible keep track of the war.  As the troops are loaded onto railcars for the journey to the POW camps, he distributes the parts to protect them from discovery.

As engineers, Eric and his fellow officers are sent to assist the Japanese in keeping equipment running.  The equipment and most of the troops and natives are dedicated to a task that the British decided not to attempt, building a railway from Burma up to China.  The British refused to build it because the cost in human life was projected to be simply to great.  The Japanese had a slave pool they didn’t mind sacrificing.  This was a win-win scenario for them.  They get a railway and reduce the number of captives at the same time.

Eventually, the radio is discovered, leading the Japanese to torture Eric unmercifully. 

The film begins with the older Eric (Firth) riding his beloved trains.  On one fateful day, he meets a fellow traveler, Patti (Nicole Kidman).  They spend the train ride discussing the places Patti will see on her proposed journey. 

Eric and Patti fall in love and marry.  All of Eric’s fellow veterans are at the ceremony.  These are the same men who went to the POW camp with him and came home only to keep their experiences and nightmares to themselves.  Though they meet every few weeks, the men don’t even speak of their experiences amongst themselves.

Now living together Patti sees firsthand the nightmares and anguish that Eric lives with as a constant companion.  His refusal to talk leads her to seek out Eric’s best friend in the group, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgaard).  Finley eventually relents and tells Patti about their time in the camp. 

The scenes in the camp and at the museum where Eric confronts Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada), the Japanese officer who tortured him, are powerful.  This is the type of film that Colin Firth where excels.  His repressed emotions grab you and wring you dry.  Jeremy Irvine as young Eric shows us a young actor who will go a long way.  His portrayal is excellent.  The entire ensemble cast is exceptional.  I can honestly say that The Railway Man is a must see film that will stick with you for a long time.

Movie Site:

The Selig Rating Scale:

FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!

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