The Railway Man – Review (Spoiler Free)

railway manA strong story and cast gets somewhat diluted by a safe script and tame direction.

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.

Make yourself heard in the comment box below!


  1. Keep avoiding this one and after reading this along with other very “average” rated reviews of the film I have done well to do so. Good review 🙂 just not going to be my film!

    1. Cheers! It’s not a film you will really regret seeing, it’s just that it falls somewhat short of its potential. It’s a shame but I’m glad that I checked it out I suppose.

      1. Maybe it would have had more success if it was released away from all the Oscar pictures! And people would enjoy it more as there wouldn’t be a better comparison.

        1. Yeah that’s true, it hardly is doing well when everyone is talking about Wolf, 12 Years and (now to a lesser) extent Gravity!

  2. Good review, James. I’ve been intrigued by this one ever since I saw the trailer, but I had a nagging feeling that it would be too safe, like you said.

    1. Cheers buddy!
      Yeah I was really intrigued by it too. If you get the chance to give it a go in the future then you might as well, but don’t rush out to it or anything.

      1. Yeah, I’ll give it a rent sometime.

  3. strawberrypiemovies · · Reply

    Watched it just to review it on my movie blog. Probably because it had colin firth in it. Jeremy Irvine was good but I had a feeling that we didn’t get the chance to see him at his full potential. Nicole Kidman was a letdown. The ending felt a bit flat, but it was good how it turned out. OK for history buffs.

    1. Sounds like we are on a somewhat similar page. I blame Kidman bring a let down on the script though rather than her.

  4. I saw the trailer for this and just though… meh… Not sure I can be bothered.

    1. Ah I was quite intrigued by the trailer as it happens, just the film didn’t quite meet expectations.

  5. Nice review. This is still a movie I’m anxious to see. I don’t mind it playing safe as long as it’s done well. Sounds like this one may be just okay.

    1. Cheers buddy! Well then it sounds like it could be pretty good for you then! There’s a lot that’s decent to it, just a little too safe for me.

  6. Your thoughts are exactly what I pulled away from the trailer. Well acted but very formulaic. I’ll catch this on Netflix one day years from now lol

    1. Hey man!
      That’s a pretty solid plan there, certainly don’t rush out to find it.
      Hope you’re good!

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