Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Railway Man Review

I've often heard it said that in war there are no winners. This may be false when we look at things as a whole. In World War II when the United States bombed Japan, we definitely won that war. On a smaller scale, when one side is attempting to invade another side, but fails and survivors are taken prisoner, that may be seen as a victory. When those survivors are rescued, it also may be seen as a victory. But is it really? When we look at the individual and follow them for the rest of their lives, a different story is seen. If a soldier went through an awful experience during war, that experience may haunt that individual for the rest of their life, regardless of whether their side won or lost the war. In their mind, they may not have seen this as a victory because they are still fighting this inner war inside themselves that never seems to go away. The movie The Railway Man dives into these issues as it follows the life of one Eric Lomax, who was a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II.

The experiences of Eric Lomax are told in flashback style. We start with him later in his life as he is riding a train in England and meets a beautiful girl named Patti. We watch the two fall in love and start a relationship and throughout this story we flash back to Eric's past during the war. Certain unfortunate events lead to Eric becoming a prisoner of war. But not just that, he is constantly tortured by the Japanese in an effort for them to get information out of him. Yes, he survives, but throughout his life he is traumatized by these experiences. Jumping back to these future events with him and Patti, he learns of that his torturer is still alive and wants to contact him and he must decide what to do.

What I really liked about this movie is it made me think of an aspect of war that I often don't think about. And no, I'm not talking about an Eric Lomax-like experience. I've had many opportunities in life via movie, documentary, text book, or personal conversation where I've had to ponder on the experiences of a prisoner of war. And I can't even imagine going through what they did and it gives me a ton of respect for those who are brave enough to sign up in any branch of the military and go out to defend our country. What this movie did that was unique was make me reflect on the life of the ex-enemy. I'm trying to say this without giving a ton away, but I can't review this movie without discussing this aspect of the movie because it is a beautiful story of redemption and forgiveness. Have you ever thought about the torturer and what some of them had to live through after things were over? What if they weren't really that evil, but were just fighting for their own country and afterwards felt awful that they spent all that time torturing human beings? What if many years later, one of these torturers tried to approach one person that he tortured to apologize? Could that person be forgiven? Think of what you would do if one of your bitter enemies came to you to apologize. How would you react? Would you be able to forgive him or her? 

Jumping back to the movie, Colin Firth plays the older version of Eric while Jeremy Irvine plays the younger version of Eric. While both of them do a fantastic job, I really do have to spend a few moments praising Colin Firth. He's played a lot of excellent roles in his prestigious acting career, but despite that, this is one role that I personally think is one of his best. If we were to put on an award ceremony for the first half of 2014 and it were up to me to choose a best actor, Colin Firth in this movie would be my choice. He probably won't get any consideration when the actual Oscar awards happen early next year just because this movie came out so early, but he deserves it. Also Nicole Kidman is in this movie playing the role of Patti and she also does a great job. In fact, she manages to disappear into her role and make me forget it was actually her in the movie. I like it when actors or actresses can pull that off.

Overall, if you are tired of all the huge blockbusters this summer or you just want a change of pace, I highly encourage you to find a way to watch The Railway Man. If there is one major issue I do have, it would be that sometimes the movie suffers from pacing issues, but outside that it's a well-acted, inspirational, emotional movie that is going to stick with me for quite a long time. One fair warning is that the scenes of torture can be a bit graphic and disturbing, so be weary of that as you go in. If you are one that can't handle scenes like that, this may not be the movie for you. But as for me, I will give The Railway Man a 9/10.

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