Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Oscar winner Colin Firth lends his usual gravitas to role of damaged veteran

  • Print
On the right track: Colin Firth revisits his traumatic past in The Railway Man.

EONE Enlarge Image

On the right track: Colin Firth revisits his traumatic past in The Railway Man.

In wartime, soldiers are often pigeonholed according to nationality. The British soldier could be defined by his discipline and "stiff upper lip." The Japanese soldier, conversely, could be feared for his rigidly held sense of honour and sacrifice.

An adaptation of a true story, director Jonathan Teplitzky's The Railway Man takes a wrecking ball to those comforting, illusory stereotypes in the story of Second World War veteran Eric Lomax.

Played in his middle age by Colin Firth, Lomax is a solitary man who, in the early '80s, whiles away his time indulging his fascination with railway travel -- trains, timetables and maps all committed to memory.

Other memories are submerged but not quite buried. Hence, Lomax is the picture of the affable, civilized English gentleman when he meets recently divorced nurse Patti (Nicole Kidman)... on a train, naturally.

The two fall in love and get married, to the amusement of some of Eric's few wartime friends, including their former ringleader, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgaard), dubbed "Uncle" by his cohorts.

But in the intimacy of marriage, Eric's issues reveal themselves in increasingly strange behaviour, including hallucinations of the traumas he suffered as a young man (Jeremy Irvine) while a prisoner of the Japanese. Ironically, Lomax spent that time as a slave labourer helping construct the Burma-Siam Railway.

In tensely drawn flashbacks, Lomax and his fellow engineers secretively construct a radio so they can hear news of the war within the vacuum of prison-camp existence. The scheme would cost Lomax in particular, suffering tortuous interrogations at the hands of Japanese interpreter Nagase (Tanroe Ishida).

In the face of his increasingly erratic behaviour, Patti convinces her husband to revisit the scene of his trauma. He does just that, but with vengeful purpose, after Finlay discovers Nagase (played as an older man by Hiroyuki Sanada) is still alive and offering tours of the prison facility, now a museum.

That trip, suffice it to say, has surprising consequences for all.

The film works largely on the strength of Firth's performance. In a way, this film could be considered a companion piece to the film that won him an Oscar in 2010.

Eric Lomax is the opposite side of the coin bearing the likeness of King George VI in The King's Speech. In that film, Firth portrayed a vulnerable man obliged to construct a figure of strength. In this film, he delicately strips the stoic veneer from a veteran to reveal the fragile but compassionate soul beneath.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2014 D3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Rumor's 30th Anniversary with Mike Wilmot, Darryl Lenox, Dave Hemstad & Derek Edwards

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.
  • Water lilys are reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the federal government force band chiefs and councillors to disclose their salary information?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google