Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Railway Man

The Railway Man
Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard and Hiroyuki  Sanada

Rated: R for disturbing prisoner of war violence.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 11, 2914 Released by: The Weinstein Company

The power of rapprochement and forgiveness ultimately hits wrenching, graces notes that may be too understated, as well as obvious and forced, at times, to provide an overall desired, vivid immediacy for spare poignant complexity.

Still, The Railway Man has something to offer for the discerning, art-house patron, including the acting of leads Colin Firth (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The King's Speech) and Nicole Kidman (though she is given short shrift here) beside an attractively mounted production.

Firth's Eric Lomax has been a lifelong railway enthusiast who met wife Patti (Kidman) in the early 1980s and married her shortly thereafter. But, she learns about his life as a POW in World War II in establishing the so-called Death Railway for the Japanese in Thailand.

To help Eric overcome his overwhelming trauma Patti finds his compatriot and friend Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard of Thor: The Dark World) who divulges their torturous, incarcerating experiences. With Patti's urging Eric finally heads to Thailand to track down and face his old, presumably alive oppressor Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada) who translated for the captors.

What often derails a psychologically resonant tale ripe with humanity is the burdensome, unimaginative way when it comes to plot structure, propulsion and direction by Jonathan Teplitzky. Even if the issues the filmmaking addresses have a palpable cogency it kinds of skimps the actual haunting progressions that go along with such an impressionable experience, as finally reflected in Eric's own recollections.

Watching Eric and Patti deal with their individual and mutual discord manifests the capability of Firth and Kidman to express despondency (with limited dialogue) with a certain amount of flair around adversaries whose motivations may not easily be understood. But, those who really aren't much different from somewhat seditious folks under duress.

A usually reliable Skarsgard may not be ideal (particularly in his accent or lack thereof) for Finlay as much as a plot machination. Jeremy Irvine ("War Horse") excels as the younger Eric with chum Finlay (Sam Reid) in a flashback-oriented story that might offer some contrast when it comes to contemporary political ambivalence. Sanada holds his own opposite an English stolidness.

The Railway Man teeters in its depiction to make strong sense of closure in spite of Firth's identifying and meeting the role's demands. It's just hard to forgive the flaws which lead to distracting, off-putting scenes that diminishes what could have been a more abundant, even transcendent cinematic ride.

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The Railway Man        C+                  B-   B- 

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