The Railway Man review (Blu-ray)

Firth is well cast as ex army officer Eric Lomax, portrayed here as an uptight train enthusiast. His eccentric British reserve is effortlessly displayed when meeting Patti (Kidman) on a journey and then falling in love with her. A swift marriage ensues. Little does she know that he is a man of considerable torment, having undergone torture while a prisoner of war at a Japanese labour camp during WWII.

Kidman's role is somewhat underwritten but she plays the confused wife determined to help her anguished husband with convincing care, while Firth is very impressive at delineating the psychosis of the troubled character, never overdoing it, always keeping it on a level that is both compelling and believable. Equally good is Skarsgard as Lomax's haunted fellow ex officer, who tries to aid Patti in understanding her husband's demons.

This true story takes place in 1980 with flashbacks to the men's time as imprisoned soldiers in 1942. The harsh rigours and punishment they undergo is well conveyed - one gets a real sense of the heat and exhaustion, as well as the intimidation they face from their Japanese captors. Irvine is most plausible as the young Lomax, the brave railway lover who tries not to buckle under harsh interrogation.

Despite the classy trappings however, this decent, well made tale never draws you in quite as it should. It's too sedate and slow paced to fully involve. But come the closing stages, when Lomax has made contact again with his nemesis (Sanada), it achieves considerable power, tugging the heartstrings with manipulative skill. You might well be in tears come the end. The Railway Man doesn't hit the bullseye  but this worthy, well intentioned drama is still worth a look. It's ambitious and tactful and deserves our respect.

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Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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