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'The Railway Man' review: A stale account despite Irvine's fervor

Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman attend the premiere for "The Railway Man."
Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman attend the premiere for "The Railway Man."
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Railway Man

Rating:
Star3
Star
Star
Star
Star

Available on DVD and blu-ray on Aug. 12, 2014 after a very brief run in theatres, “The Railway Man” failed to earn attention despite its Oscar-winning stars but will likely find an audience with its rental availability. Based on Eric Lomax’s autobiographical account of torture and likely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his imprisonment in a Japanese labor camp during World War II, “The Railway Man” relies on love to motivate the adult Lomax into resolution but miscalculates the chemistry between Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. Their tepid romance along with a lack of depth to the characters thwarts the dramatic and talented performance provided by Jeremy Irvine as the young Lomax, the only worthwhile ingredient of the film.

Awkward and bookish, Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) meets and falls for Patti (Nicole Kidman), a nurse, while riding a train, his obsession. After their initial courtship and quick wedding, Patti discovers Eric’s inability to cope with the past he survived as a prisoner of war. When friend and former soldier Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard) unearths the location of Eric’s main tormentor during the war, Takeshi Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada), Eric must decide if he wants revenge while Patti must decide if she can accept his actions after learning what Eric suffered.

The script of “The Railway Man” holds the most blame for the failure of the film; the adult characters have very little personality, especially Patti, while the timeline is unclear. Told in scattered flashbacks, Lomax’s ingenuity is his only highlighted attribute. Unsubstantiated melodrama does little to convey the tough subject of POWs or the love story. The romance is warm during the main characters’ first encounters but turns empty for the last two-thirds of the film.

Releasing months before Angelina Jolie’s take on a similar story in “Unbroken,” that of American POW and Olympic star Louis Zamperini, “The Railway Man” attempts to scrape together the fans of Firth and/or Kidman to watch its half war movie, half romance. Lacking spark for much of the film, Jeremy Irvine’s dramatic portrayal buoys the film with his minor impression of Colin Firth. “The Railway Man” slips off the tracks but Irvine rescues an otherwise undeserving film.

Rating for “The Railway Man:” C+

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.