Arriving in theatres in January 2014 is The Railway Man, a movie to give new meaning to the legends of war stories such as Schindler’s List and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Through the eyes of a British soldier, Eric Lomax we are captured with fellow soldiers who have been caught by the Japanese after the surrender of Singapore in World War 2.
As part of the engineers who were used to building the impossible railway, Lomax saw the hardship and torture under which troops were forced to work creating the Burma Railway. Lomax joined the war in 1939 at the age of 19 and posted with the signal core. His love for the railway, its trains and schedules both before the war and his solace after it, form the lattice work in this story.
In the story, we see the real-life events that sent a traumatised soldier home to suffer in silence at the mental and physical scars left by the Japanese. Only when working through his marriage with Patti (Patricia Wallace) does Eric start to deal with the demons of his experience. The Railway Man screenplay is based on Eric’s own writings but it took a number of years for the movie to be made and an appropriate actor to play the lead. Sadly Eric passed away in his 90s last year before the release but he walked and talked with Colin Firth who was chosen to play the role and the empathy has been well passed on.
Firth brings the stoic Englishman into focus but also keeps us looking through his eyes at a damaged soul. Nicole Kidman as his wife works to try to bring the loving personality of her husband up from the depths as memories torture Eric’s sleep. Connecting with Finlay, a veteran friend played by Stellan Skarsgård, Patti teases Eric to a point where he must travel back to Burma to deal with his past after an old adversary from the Japanese is revealed to be still alive.
The book was originally made into a TV movie in 1995 starring John Hurt but this version for me has all the right ingredients. Director Jonathan Teplitzky has created the right balance of current and backstory across the scarred landscape of memories. Jeremy Irvine who jumped onto our screens in his War Horse lead role for Steven Spielberg does a superb job as a younger Eric.
The Railway Man was and shouldn’t be what you expect. It speaks of man’s reprobate nature and the hope we plant in the possibility of reaping forgiveness. Three and a half stars for a superb movie outing.
Rating: M Violence.