The Railway Man

WRITTEN BY: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Andy Paterson
DIRECTED BY: Jonathan Teplitzky
STARRING: Colin Firth, Jeremy Irvine, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tanroh Ishida
RATING: 4.5 stars

I loved The Railway Man. I remember being amazed and touched when I heard about two men who were adversaries at war and found some semblance of reconciliation decades later. Now, their inspiring true story has been made into a beautiful film that explores the devastating and emotional impact of war, and the power of forgiveness.

Based on Eric Lomax's memoir, The Railway Man tells the story of when Lomax (Colin Firth/Jeremy Irvine) was a British prisoner of war on the Thai/Burma "Death Railway" during World War Two. The film shifts between two timeframes - England in the 1980s and the war. Lomax's wife Pattie (Nicole Kidman) and his army friend Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard) convince him that he needs to face his harrowing past or it will consume him. He embarks on a difficult journey to confront Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada/Tanroh Ishida) who tortured him during the war.

The performances in this film are nothing short of brilliant and are often heartbreakingly moving. Firth has some very emotional scenes, while Irvine is equally powerful as the younger and far more naive rail enthusiast. Both deserve award attention. Kidman is very good in a crucial role and Skarsgard is also reliably solid. Sanada also threatens to steal a few scenes as he expresses some much-needed humanity from his character.

Many Australians know about the Thai/Burma railway, because we had many POWs there too. But it is useful to our history to see one (English) man's story of survival in that landscape depicted on screen. Hours after I saw The Railway Man, I was still thinking about it. The Railway Man certainly tugs at the heart strings.