The Railway Man (15)

Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky
Starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Hiroyuki Sanada, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Irvine
FACT, Liverpool
From 10 January 2014

Reviewed by Darren Guy

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.

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