Book-turned-film ”The Railway Man” (Jonathan Teplitzky) holds you over the water then drops you right into the deep end. From start to finish the film holds your attention, slowly revealing to you what events happened to ex-war prisoner Eric Lomax (Colin Firth). The film not only accurately portrays through a well-researched script (Frank Cottrell Boyce, Andy Paterson) that all heroes and all villains have moral grey areas but also calls the audience to question what they want to unfold.
The film features some expertly tuned and truly gripping performances. Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Patti is raw, honest and at all times completely captivating. Just as Firth’s Lomax falls in love with her kindness and perseverance as will the audience. Stellan Skarsgaard falls nothing short of previous works (”The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo”) with a solid performance as Finlay – also an ex war prisoner. Of special mention and an extraordinary display of acting came from Jeremy Irvine who plays a younger Lomax, victimized and frightened but never weak in his scenes. Had Irvine not managed such a powerful portrayal the life changing relationship between Firths Lomax and Hiroyuki Sanada’s Nagase would never have held such a potent effect.
The film however will strike audiences the most because through observation of pop culture – we like heroes that aren’t always heroic. Lomax becomes this for the audience, we see what he has been through, we know he is the victim, but in his moments of darkness we begin to question if maybe we want to see that darkness play out. This has been proven wildly successful in films such as ”Prisoners” (Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover) or the recent sensation Breaking Bad (Bryan Cranston as Walter White). We like our heroes as humans. The moral greys are what keep us watching.
Over a carefully constructed 116 minutes we see Lomax (Firth) meet and aptly fall in love with the beautiful Patti (Kidman). With the promise of the film we bear witness not just to their tenderness but also to their drama. As Lomax’s flashbacks start becoming closer to hallucinations strongly revolving around his fear and hatred of Nagase (Sanada) we start to see their relationship waver. With the help of Finlay (Skarsgaard) the film begins to show that the healing power of love is not limited to romance – but to friendship, in all of it’s unexpected forms.
The film let’s audiences put things together, and does not assume they ever need anything spelled out. This helps the pacing of what is already a great triumph for Teplitzky and certainly a positive indicator of more enthralling productions in the future. The Railway Man is sure to be a fast favourite for drama and suspense lovers – and those with an appreciation of history – but also grabs viewers regardless of who they might be and makes them feel, and makes them think. An overall great tribute to the lives of Eric Lomax and Nagase.