Film Review: The Railway Man

There are times in life when things just don’t go as planned. I had been looking forward to The Railway Man from the moment I first saw the trailer. I hadn’t read the book, I didn’t know who Eric Lomax was but, from the trailer alone, this looked, however harrowing to be a story I wanted to be told.

Unfortunately, when you preconceive an idea of what you expect something to be like quite often, the end result fails to hit that standard. And The Railway Man is just another example of this. The Trailer portrays a harrowing and intense story, brought to film with a stellar cast that should leave you feeling moved, shocked and reflective.

Instead, you get left with a feeling that while enjoyable cinema, this is a film that never quite knows that it wants to be. It’s almost as if it never felt truly comfortable with the subject matter. With its own plot. I found myself afterwards with an overriding sense that The Railway Man didn’t want to offend the characters and the story it told.

It’s almost as if it is desperately trying to say, look at the characters not at their actions. It slowly and calmly walks you through the story never allowing you to build an impression that anyone is evil, or that their actions were anything other than simply a case of following orders, however brutal. It feels as though it should be subtitled “they are just trying to survive”.

The means that the overall feel of the film is once of dampness. A weak, disjointed film and fails to live up to its expectations. Colin Firth walks through his role without appearing to really have to try, leaving it up to Jeremy Irvine to steal the show. And the in-out screen time given to Kidman and Stellan Skarsgård mean that you never really connect with them or believe in them and their relationships.

And I think all my problems stem simply from the fact, as I said, this film doesn’t want to offend. It doesn’t want to upset. As a result, the moment it starts to show any strength, any remote step slightly to far towards the uncomfortable, whether it be the actions thrust upon the young prisoners of wars by their Japanese captures; or the mental angst and self destruction shown by the older reflective men it instantly cuts between the timelines.

It sets out to protect you, to ensure you don’t get hurt, but just ends up causing its own downfall. It’s such a shame, because I really did enjoy it as a movie, but I was expecting something that would really remind me how inhumanly we as a species can treat each other and how those actions can affect you and instead go taken to a world where you half expected them to start eating soggy sandwiches while watching the waves on a wet pebble beach.

Writing this after the Oscar nominations have been announced and the award season started, it doesn’t, annoyingly, surprise me that it hasn’t done very well. It promised so much more than it was prepared to give.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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