Eric Lomax (played by Colin Firth) has always been a train enthusiast – there’s something about trains that’s fascinated and delighted him ever since he was a boy. In 1942, as a young British soldier (by Jeremy Irvine) stationed in Singapore in World War 2 when it falls to the Japanese, Eric becomes a prisoner of war (along with thousands of others) and is taken to the construction site of the Thai/Burma railway at Kempai. He is forced into hard labour on the railway and endures ongoing torture and deprivation at the hands of the Japanese. At the end of the war, he returns to England and settles in Berwick-upon-Tweed, where he maintains his interest in trains and enjoys his rides on the rails all around the country. One day, completely out of the blue, he meets the love of his life, Patricia Wallace (by Nicole Kidman) on a train journey. They soon marry and are very happy, but Eric’s war experiences have never left him and he struggles with daily life through his flashbacks and trauma. Patti is desperate to help Eric and searches for answers. She seeks out his local army mate, Finlay (by Sam Reid then by Stellen Skarsgard) who was in Thailand with him. He sheds some light on their experiences and gives Patti as much history as he can. He also tells her he’s discovered that that the main perpetrator of Eric’s torture, the young Japanese officer Nagase (by Tanroh Ishida and later by Hiroyuki Sanada), is still alive and working as a tour guide at the Thai/Burma Railway Museum on the very site of Eric’s horrific experiences. What to do? Should Patti let Eric know about this … what will he do? Will this make things better or worse for him?
There’s a lot that’s good about this movie based on a true story. The drama is told well and the authenticity of the experience cannot be questioned. But there are some implausible things too – I struggled with the casting of Nicole Kidman as Patti. This does not work at all – is she too young? She is supposed to be a mature aged, experienced woman who’s had twenty years’ nursing experience, but she just seems too young to me – it doesn’t fit with the rest of the story. At first, Colin Firth seems too young as the mature-aged Eric Lomax also – particularly on their wedding day, and it’s difficult to accept him in this role. But that feeling dissipates as you strart to understand more of the story and his experiences. His grey hair seems to disappear on his wedding day, but return for the rest of the story. The performance of Jeremy Irvine as the young Eric Lomax is marvellous – he does very well. Also good are both characters who play Finlay – the younger Sam Reid and the mature Stellan Skarsgård. It is weak in the beginning, but you should stick with it as it does get much better. I found it a little drawn out, but it’s worth hanging out until the end. The very best of it is in the final quarter. Colin Firth does very well here. The screenplay is adapted from the book by Eric Lomax “The Railway Man”, published in 1995. Director, Jonathan Teplitzky, won a SIGNIS Award at the 2013 San Sebastián International Film Festival.
Made in 2013. Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky