Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Railway Man (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“The Railway Man” Recalls WWII Trauma

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Think: “Bridge on the River Kwai” meets “The Debt.” At least that’s the way a Hollywood pitch might have gone. However, “The Railway Man” -- the new British-Australian war film that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema -- is actually an adaptation of an autobiographical book by Eric Lomax.

During World War II, Lomax was a British soldier captured by the Japanese. Sent to a POW camp, he was forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway and endure horrible torture at the hands of the enemy. He saw comrades beaten and murdered by the Kempeitai (the secret police of the Imperial Japanese Army). Having faced this kind of trauma, it’s understandable he was a mental train wreck after the war. His wife and best friend try to help, but it’s a problem only to be solved by Lomax facing his demons -- mainly a cruel Japanese officer named Takashi Nagase.

The film toggles back-and-forth from past to present with Jeremy Irvine playing the young Lomax and Oscar-winner Colin Firth as the older man. Sam Reid is the wartime version of his friend and Stellan Skarsgård the older. Tanroh Ishida is the younger Nagase and Hiroyuki Sanada is the aged foe. Also, Nicole Kidman is the caring wife.

What happens when Lomax tracks down his former captor, now leading a quiet life as a museum curator? Will a brutal act of revenge allow Lomax to let go of “a lifetime of bitterness and hate”?

That is the crux of the story.

Colin Firth met with 91-year-old Eric Lomax to get a feel for his character. Did Lomax find peace? Does he regret his actions?

“We do sometimes see stories about what it’s like coming home from war, but we very rarely see stories about what it’s like decades later,” says Firth “This is not just a portrait of suffering. It’s about relationships ... how that damage interacts with intimate relationships, with love.”

Ah yes, the love of a good woman. An immutable balm.

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