There’s a lot that’s praiseworthy about The Railway Man; the true story aspect is moving and difficult to digest and Jeremy Irvine is excellent at portraying a younger version of Firth’s Lomax, however the film never truly digs deep enough into the issues it raises. It explores the notions of good and evil to some degree, holds up forgiveness and vengeance as two opposing forces and then tries to break these binaries down, and whilst the end result is somewhat moving, it is never challenging enough.
This tale about a survivor of a Japanese POW camp who is still haunted decades later does a good job of realising the necessary torture and trauma on screen. It isn’t sensationalist at all, and is appropriately uncomfortable to view. It is probably what will stick with you most after the credits roll actually as the conflict with dealing with this trauma isn’t explored in too much depth. I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but I’ll just say it feels a little too simplistic at times. To draw a comparison to another Firth performance, his character’s struggle in The King’s Speech felt like more of a complex and difficult process than his did here.
Still some of the flashbacks to the past are well handled and Jeremy Irvine as previously said is excellent at playing a younger Colin Firth; he has his little mannerisms down pretty convincingly. It also must be noted that he more than holds his own as his scenes get tougher and tougher through torture etc. Compared to him Firth seems to be on autopilot a little bit, it’s the same sort of repressed English man we have seen him play before (Single Man for example). I think that the script is a little to blame for that though, and it certainly isn’t kind to Kidman’s character who is reduced to the background too often.
So altogether this is an interesting little film which will probably stir some sort of discussion amongst you and whoever you see it with, there’s a solid performance from Irvine and an emotional story embedded within it. However the film is not as challenging or as complex as it ideally could be. Worth seeing if you’re interested in the actors or the time period.
What is the film’s greatest strength? Jeremy Irvine’s performance.
Its greatest weakness? The script is most at fault here.
Would I see it again? No I don’t think I’ll actively seek it out again.
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