The Railway Man Blu-ray Review
Time is on the mind of Eric Lomax (Colin Firth, THE KING’S SPEECH), a British officer who served during World War II, as he lies on the floor. He recites a quote to himself that must mean so much to him.
The movie introduces Patti Wallace (Nicole Kidman, STOKER), a nurse who Lomax meets on a train ride after a sort of brief encounter. They quickly fall in love and marry soon enough. He rests in bed while his wife showers. He sits up and sees a Japanese officer, who drags him to a chamber. “No! The war’s over!” He wakes up, but the vision stays with him. He won’t share what he’s experienced, which causes him to keep an emotional distance from his wife, who only wants to understand and help.
Flash back to 1942, with Lomax (Jeremy Irvine, WAR HORSE) serving in the Battle of Singapore. It’s there that he, like many of his fellow officers, is captured by Japanese forces. He had been a train enthusiast until he was taken to a POW camp on one and forced by his captors to work on the Burma Railway. It is during this time that Lomax builds a radio, which results in his torture.
Decades later, Lomax decides, with the help of Patti, who learns details of her husband’s past from his his friend Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård, who has portrayed Dr. Eric Selvig in THOR, its sequel and THE AVENGERS, to track down Takashi Nagase (Tanroh Ishida in earlier years, Hiroyuki Sanada in later years), an interpreter for the Japanese army who had a significant hand in the torture. It sounds like a plan of revenge, and that’s how it starts out. But THE RAILWAY MAN, which is based on Lomax’s 1995 autobiography of the same name (Lomax died in 2012 at the age of 93), is about much more than that.
This is a story of coming to terms and learning what is necessary to make one live after such trauma. We see moments of torture that are brutal and show Lomax coming apart, and we understand why he would lean towards having a sharp blade in his hands when he finds out he can again come across Nagase.
The power of the movie comes not just in the conflict, the way director Jonathan Teplitzky (2011’s BURNING MAN) constructs the sequences or how screenwriters Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Peterson have laid out the story, but in Firth’s performance. It is fairly quiet, but he achieves so much just through his eyes: watch the difference in them from when he gets off the train to see Nagase to when he departs. This is not a man bent on vengeance as it first seems, but rather a man who wishes to no longer be at war.
With such a deep performance from Firth (although Irvine’s should certainly not be shortchanged) and wonderful achievements by Teplitzky and editor Martin Connor, THE RAILWAY MAN, which premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, is a highly effective work and one of the more memorable of the year.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer is of excellent quality, boasting fine details and textures in skin, clothing and sets, as well as accurate colors and black levels.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio is also without any detectable flaws and features crisp dialogue, a nice ambience and a layered score.
Feature commentary with director Jonathan Teplitzky and co-writer/producer Andy Paterson: Teplitzky and Paterson offer a very strong track, spending it covering inspirations, characters, the shooting, differences between the screenplay and the book and much more.
The Making of THE RAILWAY MAN (26:07): This documentary, hosted by journalist Lisa Ling, goes behind the scenes of THE RAILWAY MAN with clips, on-set footage and interviews (with Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and more). Historic details are also touched on.