On paper, The Railway Man sounds intriguing: the film is based on an autobiography by one Eric Lomax, in which the man recounts his time spent as a POW during World War II and his decades-later meeting and reconciliation with one of his jailors. That’s a pretty extraordinary tale, exactly the kind of real-life drama that can make for great cinema, so Jonathan Teplitzky’s adaptation has a lot going for it out the gate – and that’s on top of a talented cast that includes Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.
But there’s a problem here, and that’s that after a two-and-a-half minute trailer, one gets the sense that they’ve seen The Railway Man in its entirety. This isn’t uncommon in the movie industry – there’s a call out right now for shorter trailers that give away fewer plot details to viewer- and among the recent crop of promos released in the last year, The Railway Man could be one of the more significant offenders. While the footage certainly looks compelling, the trailers don’t need to distill the whole of a movie’s plot just to attract an audience.
So what does all of this say about The Railway Man itself? Early reviews out of TIFF are largely mixed, but it’s hard to say no to a movie that has a gifted actor like Firth in the lead.
The story here is an intimate examination of the horrors of war, one that spans many, many years. Lomax and his comrades were put to work building the Thai-Burma Railway (which you might recognize as the subject of Bridge Over the River Kwai), and he suffered intense torture at the hands of his captors. Firth can win over hearts and convey haunted anguish with ease, and should be well-suited for the part.
He’s joined by not only Kidman, fresh off her turn in Stoker, but also Stellan Skarsgard (later to be seen in this year’s Thor: The Dark World), Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), and Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine), which adds up to a tight but high quality ensemble. Based on the content here, one might imagine that Firth and Kidman are both campaigning for more Oscar gold. Though awards season is slowly approaching, it might be too early to call it one way or another.
Regardless, The Railway Man has a lot going for it at face value, though as the film has no US release date at present, it’s hard to say when we’ll find out for sure.
We’ll keep you posted on more news about The Railway Man as it becomes available.