Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wednesday Watching: The Railway Man

Photo via IMDb

The Railway Man (2013/R), based on the autobiographical book of the same name, is difficult to watch. The movie explores the story of Eric Lomax, a former British army soldier and prisoner of war, who is haunted by the events of World War II, even forty years after. The cast of The Railway Man is stellar; the art direction, costumes, and sound design are on par with The King's Speech; but, the direction and the script are sometimes disjointed, and the subject matter, while well-handled, is simply difficult to watch. The scenes of Eric Lomax's torture, and the treatment of the prisoners of war in general, encapsulates man's inhumanity to man; while it may be difficult to watch, it's also important to be aware of the pain these men went through, and how they survived.

However, leaving out the subject matter, the movie is flawed in that the cuts to flashbacks are sometimes jarring, and certain plot and character elements are left so vague that the viewer is confused. These elements could have been stronger if handled differently. But, that also has nothing to do with the outstanding and nuanced performances. Firth is able, even with the problems I felt existed in the movie, to show from the beginning Lomax's humanity and strength, his deep wounds and yearning for love and healing. Kidman gives a strong, subtle performance as Lomax's wife, Patti. But personally, I felt most riveted by Stellan Skarsgard as Finlay, Sam Reid as young Finlay, Jeremy Irvine as young Eric, and Tanroh Isida and Hiroyuki Sanada as young and old Takeshi Nagase. This is really an ensemble cast, with each actor turning in moving, quietly engaging and sympathetic performances. Because of this, and the message of reconciliation and forgiveness, I recommend it (but be aware that the images of torture and the grim turns may stay with you).

On a lighter note, Skarsgard and Firth also share the screen in both Mamma Mia! movies, and they seem to have a great rapport. And, I recently saw Sam Reid in an episode of Agatha Christie's Marple, "Greenshaw's Folly," in which he costars with Julia Sawalha, who plays Lydia in Pride and Prejudice (1995). I like finding those Jane Austen connections. :)

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