It is, perhaps, a truism of recent times that as long as little statuettes are plated with a thin layer of gold, Harvey Weinstein will continue to snap up films such as this. Similar in its Britishness as in its tint and tone to the Weinstein company’s standard awards season fare, The Railway Man tells the cinematically clichéd but moving tale of a British engineer’s experiences of torture and PTSD during and after his internment in a Japanese POW camp.
The story consists of three acts: a sheepish romance between ‘railway enthusiast’ Eric Lomax (Firth) and the bland, besweatered Patti (Kidman). When Lomax’s combat nightmares return, we begin a second act of flashbacks to his time as a POW. Then, back in the present, Lomax discovers that the cruellest of his captors is still alive, prompting him to return to the rubble site of his internment to confront his rival, and possibly more.
There is a whiff of male military dream fulfilment going on here. Beefy Jeremy Irvine plays the young Lomax and the disparity in chin sizes between the warring nations feels rather petty. Still, Firth mumbles affably, Skarsgård plays his mate, and viewers are ultimately rewarded with a truly touching denouement.
The Railway Man | Directed by Jonathan Teplizky (UK, 2013) with Colin Firth, Jeremy Irvine, Stellan Skarsgård. Starts June 25
Originally published in issue #139, June 2015.