By William Wolf

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2013--THE RAILWAY MAN  Send This Review to a Friend

A story of brutality, nightmares, re-visiting the scene of the terror and ultimate forgiveness mark “The Railway Man,” directed by Jonathan Teplitzky and based on a memoir by the late Eric Lomax. The story told with flashbacks deals with Japanese atrocities in World War II, specifically the torture of prisoners forced to work on the building of the Thailand-Burma Railway, with conditions so cruel it was dubbed the Death Railway.

Fine actor Colin Firth plays Lomax, who in the 1980s meets and is married to the beautiful Patti, played by the beautiful Nicole Kidman. She is startled by the nightmares he experiences regularly, but he is too tight-lipped to explain their source. Eric’s friend Finlay, played by Stellan Skarsgård, knows the reason—the torture Lomax and others endured working on the railway, especially under the brutal Japanese officer Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada). Patti undertakes to search for the villain in hope of freeing her husband of the lingering past. The flashbacks to scenes with the prisoners are horrific.

An ultimate confrontation between Lomax and his torturer is inevitable in the tale, as Lomax eventually visits the place where the brutality occurred. He intends to kill his tormentor in revenge, but what ensues between them leads to a regret of the past by the former officer, extremely well played in both the aggressive and apologetic modes by Sanada, and forgiveness by the victim.

I know one is supposed to luxuriate in the noble idea of forgiveness, and in real-life, Lomax and his former torturer became friends. But that part of the film is tough to take, given all that has gone before. However, forgiveness is the point of it all—the idea being that such an attitude makes for better human beings. But as anti-violence as I am, I have to admit a momentary feeling that a bit of work on the former officer’s genitals might have been a deserved response before all of the contrition. Reviewed October 21, 2013

  

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