CINEMA RELEASE: THE RAILWAY MAN
Release date: 26th December 2013
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Cast: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeremy Irvine
Classification: M (Mature Themes and Violence)
Review by Peter Gray
Clearly obsessed with trains, and in particular their timetables, it’s only fitting for former English solider Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) to meet the love of his life, Patti (Nicole Kidman), whilst on one of his many rail journeys through England. It’s a true love, and one that eventually leads to marriage, but in an otherwise loving relationship it’s Eric’s ongoing nightmares and his subsequent refusal to speak about them that proves a challenge. It was 1942 and after the fall of Singapore in World War II, Eric was captured and forced to work on building the Thai-Burma railway. When a receiver radio he builds is discovered by one of the Japanese soldiers, Eric is severely beaten and tortured, leaving him traumatised for years to come.
Beautifully made and respectively handled, Jonathan Teplitzky’s take on Eric Lomax’s memoir – as written for the screen by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson – is truly striking cinema. ‘The Railway Man’ may not be an Australian tale but the home-grown talent involved once again proves the strength and potential we have to make world-class cinema. Despite the brutal beatings that Lomax experienced, and the savage encounters within the prison camp, Teplitzky shows superb control in their detail to make sure these horrific moments are felt without overstaying their welcome.
Firth, yet again, delivers an ardently charged performance that allows us to feel Eric’s pain with every step, never does he not feel like a real person as his complexities are fused with a vulnerability that makes his character all the more empathetic. As Patti, Kidman has a less showy role than usual and it’s through her understated delivery that she ironically makes the biggest statement. Stellan Skarsgard is most effective in the role as a fellow soldier who experienced similar involvements as Eric, whilst young Jeremy Irvine, ever so grand in ‘War Horse’, is a real standout as the young Eric who more or less ends up carrying the whole film through his emotionally devastating performance.
The film seems to truly come into its own however in the final stages as Eric discovers the Japanese soldier whose hands delivered his life-changing torture is still alive and working as a tour guide at a railway museum. Though the film in some respects shifts tone, it never feels like an unnatural turn of events as these highly expressive scenes of Eric and Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada) coming face to face escalates ‘The Railway Man’ to a higher place of potent emotionalism. Sanada indeed has the most difficult role of all as he makes no apologies for his behaviour throughout the war but admits his potential punishment at the hands of Lomax is well-deserved even as he begs for forgiveness. These moments are the beating heart of this film and will leave you torn but impressed all the same at Sanada’s spectacular delivery.
My rating 4/5 (A journey worth taking)
CINEMA RELEASE: THE RAILWAY MAN