The Railway Man (2013) – Film Review

I began this one with little knowledge of what it entails, except perhaps a trailer a few years ago. Colin Firth plays Eric Lomax, a war veteran with a passion for trains. On one train-based excursion, he meets Patti (Nicole Kidman), and they fall in love and marry. Eric rarely speaks of his past and his involvement in the war, and frequently has night-terrors and visions of his ordeal. Patti learns from Eric’s friend and veteran, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård) that Eric was a prisoner of war of the Japanese Army. She has to confront Eric to ask about his ordeal. We are then taken back in time to the Japanese work camp, and we see young Eric (Jeremy Irvine) undergoing the torture and bad treatment in the work camps.

I’m not really in any position to comment on the historical accuracy of the film, but I did feel I learnt a lot about the soldiers captured by the Japanese after surrender in Singapore. There are a plentiful amount of war films based around the major events of mainland Europe, but this feels like the untold story of the war. Also, the film is based upon the life of Eric Lomax, a real soldier who wrote a book of all his experiences. It always adds to a historical based film that it is based on a true story. It brings the characters to life, we empathise more with the suffering, knowing that someone out there has had to suffer this fate. The historical aspect is fantastically done with realistic telegrams and war information being slowly fed into the script. It really grounds in within the war history that we already know.

However, the most prevalent theme that we encounter is the thirst for revenge. Present-day Eric Lomax, seeks to return to Singapore to find the men that mistreated him. He is looking for one in particularly, that he knows to be alive and he knows where to find him. This then poses the ultimate question of revenge. What would you do if your greatest enemy was opposite you? Eric must face the decision as he finds his past horrors waiting for him along the Thai/Burma railway line. Although this film is dealing with revenge, it is not part of my Revenge module, which is a shame as we see the big decisions that Eric has to face when meeting the Japanese officer for potentially the last time.

Overall, a fantastic depiction of the events, which was enjoyable and endearing. We connect with the characters through the fantastic acting of Colin Firth and Jeremy Irvine, who successfully portray Eric in both present day and the past. I would highly recommend the film, it wasn’t too long or drawn out. It was just right.


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