Tuesday, April 22, 2014

[Review] The Railway Man

Based on the true story adapted from Eric Lomax's autobiography, The Railway Man is a war drama about a former British Army officer that's haunted by his past as a prisoner at a Japanese labor camp during World War II.

During present times, an older Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), meets Patti (Nicole Kidman) on a train and the two fall in love and get married. Patti soon realizes that Eric suffers from PTSD. He experiences memory flashes from his time at war, and often snaps back from them in a disturbing manner. These flashes serve as Eric's backstory, and Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) plays the younger version. As the film progresses, we see that Eric was forced to work on a railroad, and one day he gets caught listening to a radio and is then taken away to be violently tortured. In the present, Eric refuses to talk about what happened, but the torture scenes are shown later on, and it's safe to say they aren't pleasant.

It takes a while, but Eric is notified that his main captor is still alive, and he sets out on a journey to find and confront him, in order to gain peace of mind. This gives the story some direction, and a lot of anticipation arises as we wonder exactly how it'll play out.

The lush camera angles in The Railway Man highlight a visual motif of ascension and descension--rows of chairs, steps, boardwalks, lines of soldiers, prison cells, grave stones, and of course the trains and railways. These visuals enhance the story's rich themes of debilitating repetition (mentally and physically), emotional ups and downs, and literal and figurative trails to closure. Jeremy Irvine does a nice job as younger Eric, and Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman are expectedly solid. The string-driven musical score is quite beautiful.

The Railway Man drifts over the line to where the actual existence of the real life story is more compelling than what the film offers. The slow pacing is The Railway Man's biggest enemy, but its path to reconciliation turns out to be a rewarding one, and it's a powerful testament of mercy and forgiveness, even in the face of the long-lasting horrors of war.


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