The Railway Man (film)
|The Railway Man|
|Directed by||Jonathan Teplitzky|
|Produced by||Chris Brown
|Screenplay by||Frank Cottrell Boyce
|Based on||The Railway Man
by Eric Lomax
|Music by||David Hirschfelder|
|Edited by||Martin Connor|
|Archer Street Productions
Pictures in Paradise
Thai Occidental Productions
|Running time||116 minutes|
The Railway Man is a 2013 British–Australian-made war film directed by Jonathan Teplitzky. It is an adaptation of the bestselling autobiography of the same name by Eric Lomax, and stars Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine and Stellan Skarsgård. It premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on 6 September 2013.
During World War II, Eric Lomax (Irvine) is a British officer who is captured by the Japanese in Singapore and sent to a Thai POW camp, where he is forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway north of the Malay Peninsula. During his time in the camp, Lomax is tortured by the Kempetai for building a radio from spare parts.
Years later and still suffering the psychological trauma of his wartime experiences, with the help of his wife Patti (Kidman) and best friend Finlay (Skarsgård), Lomax (Firth) decides to find and confront one of his captors who had escaped prosecution as a war criminal. He returns to the scene of his torture after he has tracked down Japanese officer Takashi Nagase (Sanada) "in an attempt to let go of a lifetime of bitterness and hate".
- Colin Firth as Eric Lomax
- Jeremy Irvine as Young Eric Lomax
- Nicole Kidman as Patti Lomax (née Wallace)
- Stellan Skarsgård as Finlay
- Sam Reid as Young Finlay
- Tanroh Ishida as Takashi Nagase
- Hiroyuki Sanada as Old Takashi Nagase
While he was working on the screenplay, co-writer Frank Cottrell Boyce travelled to Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland with Firth to meet 91-year-old Lomax. Firth said of the film: "I think what is not often addressed is the effect over time. We do sometimes see stories about what it's like coming home from war, we very rarely see stories about what it's like decades later. This is not just a portrait of suffering. It's about relationships ... how that damage interacts with intimate relationships, with love."
On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, the film has a score of 66% based on reviews from 107 critics; the consensus reads: "Understated to a fault, The Railway Man transcends its occasionally stodgy pacing with a touching, fact-based story and the quiet chemistry of its stars." At Metacritic, the film received a score of 59/100 based on 33 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Kidman, Firth, and Irvine were all praised for their roles. Katherine Monk of the Montreal Gazette said of Kidman "It's a truly masterful piece of acting that transcends Teplitzky’s store-bought framing, but it’s Kidman who delivers the biggest surprise: For the first time since her eyebrows turned into solid marble arches, the Australian Oscar winner is truly terrific" and finishing with "Coupled with some dowdy clothes and a keen ear for accents, Kidman is a very believable middle-aged survivor who will not surrender to melodrama or abandonment". Ken Korman agreed with the notion stating "Kidman finds herself playing an unabashedly middle-aged character. She rises to the occasion with a deep appreciation of her character’s own emotional trauma." Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail stated, "Firth gives the performance his all as a man trapped in a vortex of grief, shame and hate, but as in Scott Hicks’s Shine, which the film occasionally resembles, there’s an overtidy relationship between trauma and catharsis"
The film grossed $4,415,429 in the USA, plus $17,882,455 outside the USA, for a combined gross of $22,297,884.
Dr Philip Towle from the University of Cambridge, who specialises in the treatment of POWs, awarded the film three stars out of five for historical accuracy. Reviewing the film for History Extra, the website of BBC History Magazine, he said that, while he had no problem with the representation of the suffering of POWs and of the way in which the Japanese are portrayed, "the impression [the film] gives of the postwar behaviour of former POWs of the Japanese is too generalised, and the crucial meeting between victim and perpetrator was fundamentally changed for dramatic effect."
Dr Towle said that Lomax's book makes clear that he prepared to meet one of his tormentors to seek some sort of closure. Yet, "to build up suspense, the film suggests that he went to the encounter determined on vengeance, and it was the meeting alone which led him to change his mind. The film also suggests that his tormenter was not expecting to meet Lomax, whereas in reality correspondence had prepared him for it".
Dr Towle also said the film "compressed the war so that it appeared as if the prisoners were rescued from the railway itself by the arrival of allied forces after the Japanese surrender.… In fact, the railway had been completed, as much as it was ever going to be, and the main dangers to the POWs came from starvation and disease, Allied bombing and the looming threat that all would be murdered by the Japanese at the end of the war".
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