Films that focus on historical stories that are a bit out the norm always make for some of the best movies when handled correctly. The latest, The Railway Man stars Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, and Hiroyuki Sanada to bring together this true story to life, but does it successfully bring it to life and do it justice or is it a piece of history that should have stayed buried?
The Railway Man follows a former British Army officer, who was tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II, discovers that the man responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and sets out to confront him. The premise alone makes this a compelling film and with this cast involvement there is no reason it shouldn’t. Where this film suffers is the pacing as it moves at a snails pace a lot of time. This is sometimes necessary with the story, but had they restructured it a little it would have worked a lot better. The story is told through a series of flashbacks, but as they pull you into the intense situations these men had to endure they jump back to the present. Both aspects of this story are needed to lead to the end game and to see where Firth’s character is at emotionally, but just takes some of the effectiveness away. That being said, the film is still good and tells a really emotional tale of suffering, revenge, and torment that could never be understood by those not there. It is no surprise that Firth delivers a great performance having to shift through a wide variety of emotions to bring this character to life. The rest of the cast do a fine job, most notably the always great Hiroyuki Sanada whose role is brief in the film, but powerful. Some of the best and most interesting sequences are those of the flashback scenes involving what the soldiers endured and what they tried to do to survive.
While this film struggles a little bit with the way the film is crafted, make no mistake this is a powerful film dealing with a subject that a lot of soldiers do. The end result and direction of it all not only elevates what came before it in the film but also showcases a closure and sense of hope for humanity.