The Railway Man

June, 2014, Drama

Alas, true stories (even heroic ones) do not always good films make. This earnest but rather colorless adaptation of Eric Lomax’s book about his wartime treatment by the Japanese in WW II lacks both the narrative drive and emotional punch necessary to sustain its nearly two-hour running time.

On the face of it, Lomax’s torture while a POW and his subsequent confrontation with the man he held responsible for it should have been a screenwriter’s dream - - plenty of opportunities for suspense and the exposition of powerful feelings…but British screenwriters Frank Boyce and Andy Paterson never get inside the story’s characters and much of the tension implicit in its storyline dissipates at the movie’s climax.

Despite the presence of first-rate actors (Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman & Stellan Skarsgard) and a plot that brings the camera from Scotland to Queensland Australia and finally to the jungles of Thailand, Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky never gets the movie’s pacing and intensity just right, dissipating Firth’s cramped rages, Kidman’s genuine warmth and Skarsgard’s brotherly concern for a fellow soldier unable to come to terms with his terrifyingly and degrading wartime experiences. The director settles instead for a tepid tone, reminiscent of early Masterpiece Theater productions; the results are well intentioned and motivated by lofty aspirations - - yet not a little dull.

 The Verdict? A golden opportunity missed.   

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