The Railway Man (2013)
Cast includes: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!), Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine)
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky (Burning Man)
Genre: Drama | History (116 minutes) Based on a book by Eric Lomax
England 1980… The guys ruthlessly tease Eric Lomax about his out-of-date railway timetables. “I have a small problem,” says Eric. That gets their attention. Eric explains about the minor adjustment in the train schedule and how he got the idea to run for a different train. Breathlessly, he finds a seat across from an attractive young woman. Patti is a bit put off by his intensity, but soon realizes Eric is a walking encyclopedia about the railroad and the highlights of every stop. She’s on her way to Scotland, so Eric tells her about the most “romantic” destinations. Carstairs Station comes way too quick, and his departure is way too abrupt, he explains. “I’ve come to the unlikely conclusion that I’ve fallen in love.” The guys convince Eric that he must find Patti again. So he does, and before long the two are married. Everything is wonderful until the nightmares start again. At night Eric can’t escape the brutal prisoner of war camp in Thailand… in the daytime, he can’t talk about it… not with anyone.
Patti is desperate to understand, so she pleads with Eric’s best friend, Finlay, to help. Singapore 1942… Eric and Finlay are stationed in signals. When Singapore falls, they quickly destroy the radio equipment, but Eric takes a tube and some parts… might come in handy. The signals men… now prisoners of war… are put on a train going north for 3 days. The curious thing is that it then turns east. There didn’t used to be a line going east… and Eric should know because he’s always been a railway enthusiast. The British, who put in the other lines, wanted to put a line from Thailand to Burma but decided against it… too difficult… “not a matter of engineering, but of brutality.” Now the Japanese are using prisoners as slaves to build the railway. The brutality doesn’t matter because these men “have no honor… You should be ashamed to be alive,” says Nagase. The cruelty is unspeakable, and Eric is singled out for the worst of it because they believe he knows something he’s not telling. There’s only so much that Finlay can tell Patti because Eric’s never spoken about what they did to him… and in all likelihood, he never will… until Finlay shows him the newspaper clipping. Nagase is still alive.
Without a word, Eric disappears. He doesn’t know quite what he’s going to do, except that he’s going to confront Nagase. The Railway Man is a beautifully developed journey that takes us back to an intensely dark episode in WWII history. Based on actual events and a book by Eric Lomax, the narrative not only focuses on what happened during WWII, but the long struggle to find peace afterward. Some elements of the story aren’t that difficult to predict, but it’s told with the kind of detail and accuracy that best come from the person who lived the story. The performances and filmmaking are excellent. While it’s not necessarily an enjoyable 2 hours, it feels like a worthwhile journey. Sometimes there’s a fine line between a tragedy of war and a crime… sometimes not. Sometimes survival itself is a tragedy… sometimes it’s a blessing.
3 popped kernels
True story about a WWII prisoner of war who confronts his cruelest captor
Rated: R (Violence)
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Mainstream Limited Release
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: High-End Production
Nutshell: WWII prisoner of war
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought Provoking