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Railway Man, The

Starz / Anchor Bay // R // August 12, 2014
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted August 4, 2014 | E-mail the Author
The Railway Man Blu-ray Review

The Railway Man is an evocative, intelligent, and well made dramatic film based upon the real life story told by Eric Lomax in his published autobiography. The film is a dramatized version telling his story with Academy Award winners Colin Firth (The King's Speech, Bridget Jones Diary) and Nicole Kidman (Birth, The Hours) in the leading roles. From acclaimed director Jonathan Teplitzky (Burning Man, Gettin' Square), the film is a noteworthy, accomplished exploration of humanity's encounters with grief and the power of forgiveness.

The basis of the film is the biography written by Eric Lomax. This story was one which the filmmakers felt was an important one to tell and one that was worth exploration. This was correctly felt, as this is an undeniably powerful story of the hurt of war, the pain felt by a threshold of unpleasant memories, and the power of love and redemption.  Eric' story is something worth the heartfelt exploration of the filmmakers and is made powerful with screenwriters Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson's excellent writing.  

Eric (Colin Firth) was a solider during World War II. Decades after the war had "ended", emotions and turmoil felt from the war are still felt deep within him. Eric now has love: discovering the magic and power of his relationship with wife Patti (Nicole Kidman) is something which seems to give some brief reprieve from his feelings of the war, but the powerful and haunting feelings inside him are brought forward when he discovers news concerning the life of one of the soldiers who held him captive in the WWII POW camp. Discovering that the man was never put to death for his crimes, Eric decides to go out to somehow confront Takeshi Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada).

The Railway Man is a film that unfolds by ebbing and flowing through time with the focus on the adult, middle-aged Eric and the younger self (performed exceptionally well by the up and coming actor Jeremy Irvine, who gave a remarkable performance in Spielberg's War Horse).  Through remarkable performances by both Irvine and Firth the story of Eric is told in a way audiences will find both compelling and important to history. The performances by both are entirely complementary to the other and work cohesively. Firth delivers one of his very best performances, and it is right up there alongside his award winning performance given in The King's Speech. Irvine continues to prove his versatility and skills as an actor and audiences can likely expect to see a lot more from the young actor in coming years. After only a handful of performances, Irvine is already demonstrating the skill of an accomplished actor with more experience.

Eric's story is told by flashbacks and the film explores his time as a soldier and the time he spent as a prisoner. He was a British officer who became captured by the Japanese soldiers and was placed into a Japanese prisoner of war camp.  It explores these dark moments in his life and parallels them to the present day Eric, who is undergoing many of the same complicated emotions in his adult life that were caused by traumatizing events from earlier in his life: undeniably horrible moments that scarred the good-natured and kind Eric, who had been interrogated by the Japanese soldiers after building a radio from scraps - and for the simple delight of listening to the radio and hearing the voices of the outside world.

Nicole Kidman also surprises as Eric's wife Patti, who doesn't learn of Eric's emotional torment that continues to haunt him until after marriage. Kidman's charisma and chemistry with Firth helps to add a layer of emotionalism to the film. It also helps to aid the essential statement delivered within the film's storytelling about the great importance of love and its power to ultimately help in finding healing.

The relationship which Patti has with Eric is so dear to her she seeks communication and help from Eric's best friend from the war, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard), who helps to find a way to communicate between them. Patti's loyalty and love for Eric despite his turmoil is powerful, especially as she seeks to help to bring Eric to feelings of peace. Kidman delivers one of her best performances in film since the acclaimed (if under-seen) masterpiece Birth. While Kidman has always impressed throughout her entire career, the last few films Kidman has starred in haven't been as capable at demonstrating her immense talent. This is a strong and memorable supporting part that adds a great deal to the film.

Director Teplitzky brings a quiet minimalistic approach to the storytelling and handles the script material with a keen observational eye that is focused intently on bringing forth the best from everyone's performances. The film's artistic approach is largely effective and does a solid job reinforcing the story and acting. Cinematographer Garry Phillips gives the film a glow that punctuates a modern filmmaking style. It  feels nostalgic and is beautiful to behold if also sometimes a bit peculiar given the sorrowful thematic material. It certainly is a lush and incredibly well filmed effort from its photography standpoint, and it mostly works well.

The Railway Man manages to find a way to tell its story to audiences in a effective way, highlighting the good of forgiveness and redemption through its intricate ending. This remarkably powerful true story is one that resonates and leaves a strong impression. In effectively exploring the lifelong trauma of soldiers who were P.O.W., the film explores something rarely seen in war-related filmmaking: the emotions and feelings left on soldiers decades later.

The message of the film is one which positively reinforces forgiveness, love, and the importance of letting go of hate: the making-of this film notes that this is something the real Eric Lomax felt was important and it is something well conveyed in this worthwhile film highlighted with great performances, an excellent script, and solid direction.  The Railway Man is worth seeking out and exploring.

The Blu-ray:


The Railway Man arrives on Blu-ray with a reasonably strong 1080p High Definition transfer. The film's rich cinematography and use of color is notable and is well represented. While the transfer does have minor issues with banding and seems a bit soft in some scenes most of its presentation is impressive, sharp, and stylishly effective.


The film is presented in 24 bit lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The dialogue is always easy to follow and understand on this presentation. The music score by David Hirschfelder (Shine, Australia) is impressive and has a prominent place in the audio presentation, though there are also some lengthy passages without music. This is a good presentation for this effective film.

English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing) and Spanish subtitles are provided.


The supplements on this release include:

Feature commentary track with the director Jonathan Teplitzky and co-screenwriter and producer Andy Paterson.

The Making of The Railway Man (HD, 26 min.) is a longer than standard and above average sort of making of inclusion with journalist Lisa Ling giving background history relevant to the film (accompanied by archival footage), alongside interviews with cast/crew, and behind the scenes filming footage while during the making of the film. There are also several clips from the film included, but this would still be worth checking out.

Final Thoughts:

The Railway Man is an important drama that was essential to being told and explored through film. The fine performances and quality script help to make this a triumphant and remarkable motion-picture in good measure and the direction is effective in bringing this story to life in a cinematic way. The Blu-ray features good PQ/AQ, and some notable extras. It is worthy of a purchase for fans and should be considered worthy viewing for those who like to see dramas with an important message and spirit worth conveying.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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Highly Recommended

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