Based on the memoir by British World War II soldier Eric Lomax, The Railway Man is an intense and emotional drama about one man's lifelong struggle to overcome the effects of being a prisoner of war.
As a child in Edinburgh, Lomax (Firth) was fascinated by railways and local steam trains; he could never have imagined the horror building a railway would later bring him. As a young Allied POW, Lomax was forced to work building the Thailand-Burma railway, known as the "Death Railway", and after a radio Lomax had made was discovered in the prisoner's camp, he was tortured. The waterboarding left him permanently traumatised and he was haunted by Japanese officer Takashi Nagase, who oversaw his torture.
Decades later, Lomax meets and marries Patti (Kidman), but it's not long until his nightmares return and he retreats from life.. It's Patti who convinces her husband it's time to face his demons and travel to Thailand to confront his tormentor.
This is very much a personal story of how love, courage and forgiveness can heal, and it's hard not to be moved by Lomax's harrowing story. Firth's performance is filled with anger and revenge, despair and heartbreak; and, of course, he nails the buttoned-up, repressed Brit routine.
The relationship with Patti is not so well managed. Other than a beautiful moment when they first meet on a train, they are emotionally aloof, and as Lomax becomes more distant because of his post-traumatic stress, Kidman and Firth become increasingly stiff around each other.
Flashbacks are used to share the real horror of what Lomax endured during the war and Jeremy Irvine does a good job as the young Lomax, capturing the older man's physical quirks. Flicking back and forth in time may not make for a smooth narrative, but the message of forgiveness and reconciliation comes through loud and clear - this is quite an extraordinary tale.
Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman
An uneven, yet moving, tale of forgiveness and reconciliation