Eccentric, enigmatic, and as Colin Firthy as ever, Eric Lomax is a WW2 veteran with deep trauma that is either fended off by, or tied up in, his obsession with trains. Eric is closed off, far away, and unable to confide in his new wife Patti, played by Nicole Kidman who appears to have hit upon a renaissance of quality performances after The Stoker. They live together by the British seaside, but he is haunted by the mysterious incidents from his years a POW after the fall of Singapore, and has to travel back there if he is ever to be free of it.
There are a series of flashbacks throughout, in which Jeremy Irvine is possibly even more charming and Firthy than Firth himself, and in which he suffers immense brutality for his honesty and bravery. The elder Lomax eventually travels to the Far East, to confront his Japanese torturer, for closure or for vengeance.
The Railway Man is a moving film, telling of the power that companionship can have to help mend these long-lasting wounds. It’s sentimental at times, though, with Patti a little too close to becoming a literal symbol for Eric’s chance for forgiveness. There is also an element of predictability to the plot — the question of whether anyone played by Colin Firth is capable of murderous vengeance is a silly one, really.
The cinematography is beautiful at times, with a few gorgeous Hunger-esque two-shots, and some engaging, rousing moments as the young Lomax’s fellow troops do all they can to lift morale in terrible conditions. It’s a strong exploration of the journey back from this kind of trauma, but without enough of the dead-eyed stare of The Deer Hunter, for example, where you really feel at risk.
The Railway Man is available on April 23 on DVD and Blueray and Digital.