Colin Firth’s finely calibrated performance illuminates “The Railway Man,” a fact-based story of love and forgiveness overcoming the pain of war.
Firth plays Eric Lomax, whom we meet in 1980 as an eccentric expert on railway timetables — who falls in love with Patti (Nicole Kidman), a gentle nurse. The two are married, but soon Patti learns of Eric’s troubled past as a British Army signalman (played in flashback by “War Horse’s” Jeremy Irvine) in a Japanese prison camp during World War II.
Eric won’t talk about his wartime experiences, and his colleague Finley (Stellan Skarsgård) only hints to Patti of the brutality Eric suffered. But Finley also shares with Patti and Eric a secret: The Japanese officer responsible is still alive (played by Hiroyuki Sanada), in Burma near the railway that the prisoners’ labor built.
Director Jonathan Teplitzky is almost genteel in the handling of Eric and Patti’s meeting, then slams us hard with harrowing scenes of wartime atrocities. (Anybody want to watch this and still say waterboarding isn’t torture?)
Firth is especially good, showing Eric as he battles to put aside his rage to find forgiveness for his haunted ex-tormenter.
‘The Railway Man’
Opens today at area theaters; rated R for disturbing prisoner of war violence; 113 minutes.