War films are always important, especially when based on true stories - the constant reminder not to repeat the past is vital, but much like feeding a child food they don’t want, it’s all about the presentation and approach.
The film ‘The Railway Man’, based on the book of the same name, is the first-hand account of railway engineer Eric Lomax, who was serving overseas during World War II when he was captured by the Japanese. He and his troop were forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway - a feat so difficult and deadly, the idea alone was previously abandoned by the British due to the ungodly effort and conditions required for its completion.
The film picks up when Eric (Colin Firth), a railway enthusiast who memorises train timetables, meets Patti (Nicole Kidman) when they're both riding the rails one day. The pair have an instant connection, fall in love and marry. On the night of their wedding, Eric’s PTSD manifests itself, and so the destruction and downward spiral begins.
Not willing to let go of the man she loves, Patti turns to Eric’s friend and fellow veteran Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård) for answers as to what happened to her husband all those years ago. Matters are complicated when it’s revealed that Takashi Nagase (Tanroh Ishida and Hiroyuki Sanada), the man who tortured the young Eric (Jeremy Irvine), is still alive and serving as a tour guide at the now infamous location.
Beautifully shot and a stellar cast delivering masterful and delicate performances, the film is let down but clunky storytelling and construction. The order of events is all too convenient and pedestrian for the tale told.
Still a fascinating and heartbreaking story, its ultimate theme of redemption wins out and makes this one worth the watch.