Sunday, May 25, 2014


Rated: R

Stars: Colin Firth,  Nicole Kidman,  Hiroyuki Sanada,  Jeremy Irvine, Tanroh Ishida,  Stellen Skarsgard

Director: Jonathan Teplitzki

Genre: Drama

So if you are really screwed up with PTSD and nightmare flashbacks to your war experiences that are severely affecting the quality of your life, you should probably tell your fiancee about it so she can make an informed decision about whether or not to go ahead and cohabitate with you.  Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) doesn't, and there we have the crux of The Railway Man. 

Lomax is a seemingly mild mannered middle-aged guy who has a fondness for trains. What his wife, Patti, (Nicole Kidman) doesn't get the whole scoop on until later is that he was a POW in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, where he was subjected to heinously cruel torture, including water boarding.  Lomax discovers that one of the guards at the camp who assisted in putting him through this hell on earth is still alive and living a pretty good life in Thailand. The story question becomes whether Lomax should find the guy and give him a taste of his own medicine.  

The Railway Man is based on the real Eric Lomax's autobiography of the same title. I haven't read the book, but I already knew going in how the film was going to turn out.  There was only one way that it COULD conclude in order for Lomax to maintain the connection to his own humanity and end up writing a bang-up story that would touch its readers. Despite that, there is still plenty of suspense in the climactic scenes as to how the human drama between these two men will play out.

Nicole Kidman as the concerned wife, Patti, isn't called upon to display all the fiery brilliance she is capable of (if you want to see that, go rent 

Eyes Wide Shut), but she does a fine job here in a rather subdued role.   

And I don't know how anybody can watch the water boarding scenes in this film and not harken back to Dick Cheney and the White House gang that permitted this practice to be performed on our own war captives without feeling a twinge of guilt, or at least a question forming in one's mind as to whether any type of torture can be justified--no matter whose side you are on or how strongly you may be convinced that "God" is on your side. I don't think it's a coincidence that the filmmakers chose to include it. 

In summation, The Railway Man is well worth the fare.  Tickets, please.

Grade: B + 


Hey, I'd cohabit with Colin Firth under any circumstances! But it is, I feel, quite misleading that the character he plays in THE RAILWAY MAN doesn't reveal any of his madness—other than obsessing on railway routes—before he and his love-at-first-sight lady get married. They move to an idyllic setting by the ocean and almost overnight he becomes a different, almost scary individual.

The movie keeps switching from present to past, back to present again, using different actors. In Colin Firth's case, his younger self (played ably by Jeremy Irvine) is immediately recognizable since both actors wear glasses. However, when it comes to the Japanese guard (he's a translator not a torturer which makes the idea of redemption and forgiveness easier to believe), I found it harder to accept the two actors who looked nothing alike playing the same role. The younger Takeshi Nagase, played by Tanroh Ashida, was suitably fierce. But the older version of the guard/translator is what still haunts me. The shadings Hiroyuki Sanada gave his character were indeed memorable. I won't go into more detail but suffice it to say war makes victims of us all.

Haunting, too, is David Hirshfelder's score. (His musical skill earned this Aussie composer a Best Musical Score nomination back in 1999 for Elizabeth.) One final piece of advice: when you go see this movie—and I implore you to do so—take plenty of Kleenex.

Grade: B+