The Railway Man


Jonathan Teplitzky's film The Railway Man is a painful and highly affecting treatment of the true story of British World War II prisoner Eric Lomax, who along with scores of other Allied soldiers helped to build a railway from Thailand to Burma for their Japanese captors. Lomax (Jeremy Irvine) is discovered with a radio receiver he built from spare parts scavenged before the British surrender of Singapore and also connected to a map of the railway that he hid in a latrine. He is then beaten and starved by interrogators, led by the young "interpreter" Nagase. The scenes of his torture are nearly unwatchable but one must if one is to feel the full power of the film's conclusion. Most of the picture is told in flashback as Lomax, 35 years after the war, meets a lovely woman named Patti on a train to the Scottish Highlands. He is smitten, pursues her and they marry for she is taken by this rumpled, strange but loving fellow who seems fixated with train schedules. Soon after taking up house, Patti discovers Eric's wounds but only suspects how deep they go for he does not talk about them. The elder Lomax is played by Colin Firth (The King's Speech) with all of the classical discipline we have come to expect from this fine actor. And Nicole Kidman, whose screen work has always been interesting if uneven, has matured from girlish beauty into striking loveliness as Patti. Their friend and Lomax's fellow POW Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard) warns Patti about the danger of probing into the regions that Lomax has guarded so carefully. But Patti is determined and it is that determination and sudden and surprising act by Finlay that lead to the confrontation between Lomax and Nagase that is the final act of the film. Though not a perfect film,  questions about the prisoners' liberation and Lomax's life before Patti are not answered,The Railway Man is human without being sentimental and it carries an important message. Highly recommended but some scenes of prisoner torture, including water boarding, are nearly unbearable.

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