By Matt Passantino
The Railway Man breaks free of the typical mold so often used by war films. Instead of trying to cover such an extensive topic in its entirety, The Railway Man focuses on one man’s story.
Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) was an officer for the British Army during World War II. He and several of his fellow officers were forced to work on a railway while being held prisoner. Certain occurrences and revelations made by his captors led Eric to being tortured and subsequently traumatized by his time in the camp.
If any positives can be taken from Eric’s time working on the railway, it’s that he developed a deep love and passion for trains – something he carried through his adult life. He even met his wife, Patti (Nicole Kidman), on a train ride. The film spends time focusing on their life together: How love blossomed and continued to a point of struggle when Eric cannot overcome the traumas of his past.
Eric is given the surprise of a lifetime when his friend, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard), informs him that his chief torturer is still alive. A massive moral dilemma ensues.
The Railway Man is fueled by the decisions made by its characters – a storyline that makes for a rich and multi-layered film experience.
Director Jonathan Teplitzky directs The Railway Man competently. He astutely captures the horror of war and the angst of its aftermath without going over the top. The film is told with flashbacks, showing young Eric (Jeremy Irvine) and Finlay (Sam Reid) navigate the perils of war. The film is crisply edited together and never jarring, which helps make The Railway Man a full-circle viewing experience. We are able to understand Eric’s pain as it is happening and the demons he faces as an adult.
As with any war film, moments of The Railway Man can be grim but the story is confidently told and acted by Firth and Kidman. Not knowing the story going into the film will only make it a more rewarding experience.