The Then and the Now
It was during WWII that railway enthusiast and British Army officer Eric Lomax (Jeremy Irvine) along with other officers was captured by the Japanese army and held in a prison of war camp where they were inhumanely tortured whilst forced to build the Thai-Burma Railway. Eric survived the harrowing experience but not with out psychological scarring which along with others left him struggling on his return to civilian life in the UK. After some time Eric meets and marries Patti (Nicole Kidman) who is oblivious to his past until one day he breaks down and only then she realises what a mess he is beneath the seemingly in control exterior. Wanting to help him conquer the demons which never leave Patti along with fellow veteran Finlay (Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd) look to track down one of the Japanese soldiers who tormented Eric.
Two movies for the price of one; that is what you get with "The Railway Man" as on one hand we have the recreation of the past as we get to see what Lomax experienced in the Japanese prisoner of war camp. And on one hand this is nothing new as there have been other movies which have shown similar experiences some of which have of course covered similar territory as we have the men forced to build the Thai-Burma Railway. But as tastes change, effects become even more authentic and cinematography more detailed I would say that visually this representation of the past is some of the most striking you will see with power and pain shown alongside the contrasting beauty of the area is captivating. I won't go in to detail of what happens in these prisoner of war scenes but they are hard hitting.
But as I said you get two for the price of one with "The Railway Man" and so we get the story of after the war, decades after the war as Patti learns what her husband went through as a prisoner of war. And this gives the movie a freshness which makes it stand out from other prisoner of war movies as we witness how at times Patti and Eric can have moments of bliss but they end up abruptly cut short by the memories which haunt Eric. Again I won't go in to detail as for a while this story often works as a way to show the drama of the past and the effect on Eric in the present it does pose a question of what to do when a chance to confront your tormentor arises.
Now there are some expectedly good performances in "The Railway Man", both Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman deliver sensitive but captivating performances as Eric and Patti whilst in a quiet way Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd makes a huge impact as Finlay with one of the movies extremely powerful scenes. But for me it is Jeremy Irvine who makes the biggest impact as not only does he deliver a believable performance in becoming a young Colin Firth but he also brings power and emotion to his performance in those prisoner of war scenes.
What this all boils down to is that "The Railway Man" is both an engaging and powerful drama, a two in one movie with both hard hitting scenes of life in a prison camp but equally hard hitting scenes as we see a survivor's experiences after and not just the suffering from post traumatic stress.