Eric Lomax’s story is one of sorrow, redemption and forgiveness. There is a sadness and a beauty in the real tale that would have made for a stunning cinematic adaptation. Sadly, The Railway Man fails, in all possible ways, to tell this story. In 1942, Lomax, who was a British army officer, found himself in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Forced into working on the construction of the Burma Railway, Lomax ended up suffering at the hands of the Japanese and being tortured at great lengths. Having survived the ordeal, he struggled for decades to adjust back to civilian life and was left with crippling experiences of trauma. Years later, Lomax would come to reconcile with one of his torturers, an event that was organised and documented for the film Enemy, My Friend? This marked one of the most astonishing and unusual cases of unity and forgiveness in human history. Changing the sequence of events, the time span of events and, well, basically altering events altogether, The Railway Manbecomes a confusing mess of sickening sentimentality and over-dramatised revenge, all of which is tied together with an utterly appalling script. Love, marriage, discovery, revenge and redemption all take place in what feels like a matter of weeks when, in actual fact, this story spans from 1980 to 1995. The Railway Man poorly attempts to balance a love story, a thrilling tale of one woman’s attempt to uncover her husband’s mysterious past, a historical and tragic war story and a tale of reconciliation. There is too much going on, leaving the film to feel somewhat empty and lifeless. The bizarre narrative changes, along with a completely outrageous retelling of a reunion, gives The Railway Man a great insincerity.
The film is at its greatest when Jeremy Irvine is on screen. Irvine plays the younger Lomax during his time in Thailand and at the hands of his torturers. Irvine is blossoming into a truly exceptional actor whose bright future will surely be exciting to witness. Colin Firth’s performance as the older Lomax is, in comparison, pretty limp. This felt like Love Actually Colin Firth and not A Single Man Colin Firth. Nicole Kidman, who I personally rate quite highly as an actress is an odd choice for the role of Lomax’s wife, Patricia. The awkward romance of the first twenty minutes made me wish I was watching Brief Encounter instead. I yawned away whilst Firth and Kidman’s characters met on a train and deliver weak, clichéd lines back and forth. Stellan Skarsgard plays Lomax’s friend and fellow veteran but seems to think he’s playing Mad Eye Moody from the Harry Potter series. He mumbles and growls his lines to an emotionless Kidman as Lomax’s not so mysterious story is uncovered at a painfully slow pace. I can forgive and ignore many aspects of this film but I refuse to accept that The Railway Man needed to be two hours long. The whole charade grows tiresome far too quickly, growing more and more ridiculous as the film crawls towards its final chapters.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep watching our beloved film industry.