The Railway Man (15)
by Jonathan Teplitzky
Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Hiroyuki Sanada, Stellan Skarsgård,
From 10 January 2014
Circa 1980, Lomax (Colin Firth) is an eccentric with a passion for railways,
who spends his days walking up and down platforms, travelling on trains,
with a knowledge of trains and timetables any trainspotter would envy.
When Lomax is not on trains he spends his time sitting alone at the Veterans
Club at Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Then on one of his train journeys he meets Patti (Nicole Kidman) and
they fall in love. He begins a highly unlikely romance with Patti but
soon the viewer and Patti realizes just how damaged Lomax is by what he
endured as a POW at the hands of the imperial Japanese army on the Burma
Railway. Through a series of of 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).
The films shifts between Lomax's marriage to Patti and harrowing flashbacks
of the POW camp. We are shown a series of graphic scenes, as the Japanese
break down, through brutality, starvation and slave labour, British soldiers,
most notably Lomax. A lot of the scenes are brutal, in particular the
waterboarding scene. The problem with Lomax, as Patti realises, is he
won't talk to her about what happened in Burma. So together she and former
POW colleague Finley, suggest a plan, in which Lomax returns and takes
revenge on Takashi Nagase, who Finley has discovered is now a tour guide
at the former camp cum museum.
The Railway Man, although based on the experience of Lomax, is shabbily
linked. As a film it shifts too unconvincingly from his marriage to his
flashbacks as a POW, without a chance for the viewer to get to grips with
the characters. Irvine, as the young Lomax, is excellent. But I found
both Firth and Kidman unbelievable. Though saying that the scenes from
the Burmese POW camp are solid. As a war film it is excellent, as a romantic
film it falls flat.