Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review of THE RAILWAY MAN: Debilitating War Memories

October 2, 2014

"The Railway Man" is Eric Lomax. He is a British POW of the Japanese Army during World War 2, made to work on the Thai-Burma Railway. There he underwent severe and humiliating torture, which would haunt him for the rest of his life. However one day, when he read in the newspaper that one of the Japanese soldiers who tortured him was still alive, he saw his chance to face his past and recover his sanity.

The movie starts very slowly, so drab and dreary, like Eric's disturbed mental condition. Colin Firth, of course, can do this kind of quiet reflective role blindfolded. Nicole Kidman provided the only bright and pleasant diversion. She plays Eric's devoted wife, Patti, who wants to help him with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but she can only do so much. 

However, when it reaches the part where Eric's harrowing experiences in the war were being recounted, with Jeremy Irvine playing the young Eric, the film becomes absolutely riveting. Stellan Skarsgard plays Finlay, one of Eric's old soldier friends who tries to help Patti by telling her about the suffering they had to endure in the hands of the enemy. However, he cannot seem to handle the memories himself. 

The film shows the Japanese treatment of their war prisoners going from bad to inhuman. Since I live in a country which had also suffered so much under the Japanese during WW2, I had heard many stories and seen plenty of local films about this tragic chapter of recent human history, but torture is still so difficult to watch on the big screen without looking away from the brutality.

But the main distinguishing mark and best parts of this film come in the third and final act, when Eric finally get to confront one of his main tormentors, Takeshi Nagase, the translator of the Japanese Imperial Army officers at his camp. In these scenes up to the very end, Colin Firth and Hiroyuki Sanada show virtuosity as actors. It is this concluding act that makes this film absolutely moving and worth watching. 7/10

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