BIFF Film Review – The Railway Man (UK/Australia, 2013)

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It’s refreshing to see a war film that doesn’t concentrate on the ‘fighting’ aspect of war. Instead, The Railway Man, which opened the Brisbane International Film Festival, focuses on the effects of war such as post-traumatic stress disorder and its devastating nature for decades to come.

Based on the autobiography by Eric Lomax, the film joins Eric in 1980 when he meets and marries his wife Patti. She soon begins to learn that Eric is haunted by his experiences in a Japanese POW camp during World War II and by his captor Takashi Nagase. As options to help Eric’s PTSD condition begin to diminish, it becomes apparent that his salvation may lie to reaping revenge on his torturer Nagase.

Transcending between Eric in 1980 Britain and his experiences in Singapore where he was imprisoned, the transitions between these two moments of time are easy to follow. Furthermore, they come when the narrative calls for information of Eric’s experience in the camp to be revealed instead of a tactic to keep the audience interested.

Its stance vengeance is also notable, illuminating a distinction between fantasised revenge and killing in reality. Nagase is represented as his younger horrible self in Eric’s dreams and visions until he actually meets him in reality. Nagase is now old, dressed casually and we see him as a human rather than a symbol of evil.

The Railway Man is entertaining and intriguing but the script is rife with clichés to increase our emotional release, but instead decrease them because we recognise the cliché.
For me, it was good to see an Australian production (well, a UK and Australian co-production) that didn’t contain iconic, in-your-face Australian images but instead an intriguing premise and story. These are the kinds of stories we should be producing and granting money towards.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Railway Man screened – and was reviewed – at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2013. It is released nationally in Australia on Boxing Day.

Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Year: 2013
Country: UK/Australia
Languages: English
Subtitles: No
Runtime: 117 mins