With America once again exiting the stage of war, we've had a chance to see our men and women of the armed service grapple with the manacle that is PTSD. At the end of WWII, men returned as different people, fundamentally altered by their experiences but content to bear that burden alone. And while the drama Railway Man attempts to portray these struggles in a forgive/forget piece, the lack of momentum is painful to deal with.
British Army veteran As Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) is a shy, stoggy sort with an enduring passion for railroads. His knowledge of English railway timelines makes him at first seem like a lonely social misfit trivia, until a chance meeting with Patti (Nicole Kidman) aboard a train in 1980 convinces him to make friends. In a blink, the couple is married, enjoying a mid-life romance that soon turns dark, as Lomax begins to retreat into depression, brought on by his experiences in WWII. We learn that he was the victim of brutal tortures after a team of radio listeners was captured and forced to build a portion of the infamous Burma Railway, leaving many of them with deep psychological scars. After his friend Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård) eventually locates one of their oppressors, Lomax captures the unsuspecting Takashi Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada) with plans to kill him. Caught between vengeance and the weight of Nagase's own heavy heart, Lomax must decide if murder will grant him the closure he so desperately needs.
Railway Man is both a curiosity and an oddity, stuck between two eras without a clue of how to get itself out. Well-cast and sure to appeal to art house enthusiasts, Firth and Kidman (missing throughout the third act) bring the gravitas in spades. With a growing American resume, Sanada proves that he can play among our best actors, expressing the range of emotions as the noose around him tightens. Skarsgård's character is so badly fleshed out that when a pivotal scene arrives, we're left wondering if it was meant for Lomax and not Finlay.
Railway Man is rated R for disturbing prisoner of war violence and has a runtime of 116 minutes.
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