Starring: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Running Time: 116 mins
The Railway Man is a British film about the story of Eric Lomax, who remembers his horrific memories from his time in a Japanese POW camp in Burma during World War II, and after discovering the man who so tormented him in that time is still alive, he sets out to confront him.
While having a strongly poignant and consistently serious atmosphere, this film isn’t as heart-poundingly horrifying as it sets out to be, as its initially jumpy storyline, coupled with poor pacing, regularly distracts you from the seriousness of the story within.
The film starts off with the setting up to the character of Eric Lomax. While we’re not immediately introduced to his experiences during the war, we see him meeting his future wife on a cross-country train in 1980, creating a feel oddly similar to the classic 1950s British war films, which is a pleasure to see.
The two main characters are played by Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, who put in sterling performances that do save this film from lacking the depth it needs to be particularly powerful. Colin Firth plays Lomax, an evidently traumatised and confused man, while Nicole Kidman plays the loving wife to Lomax, who represents the onlooker (i.e. the viewer) in the middle of this bizarre but fascinating story.
After you meet the characters, and that 50s war film vibe has disappeared, the film does enter its poorest stage, which lasts for about 70 minutes, where it constantly skips between present day (1980), and flashbacks of Lomax’s experience in the POW camp, and this does become slightly irritating.
Although it is fascinating and horrifying to see a depiction of how terrible Japanese-run POW camps were, the film’s constant jumping between past and present really distracts you from the deeper effects that the horrific sights should have on you, and while it also manages to have a very calm pace amidst this jerky structure, it becomes too slow and slightly dull, moving you away from the poignance of the story at the time.
However, in the finale, the film takes a completely different turn, where Lomax confronts his former prison officer. Here, the film uses a combination of silence and a Kubrick-style score to make a hugely emotional, aggressive and thrilling conclusion to the film, which entices you completely for a whole 20 minutes.
Overall, I’ll give this a 7.0, because although it had its moments of brilliance, it was on the whole poorly structured and not as powerful to watch as you might think.