Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Railway Man 2014

My best film experience of the awards season seen in theatre has not been nominated. The Railway Man (Bolden Cineworld 10th January 2014)  is based on the true story of Eric Lomax who left school at sixteen and joined the post office and at 19 in 1939 enlisted in the Royal Corps of Signals, becoming an officer cadet with a commission just before Christmas in 1940. He was posted to Singapore and required to surrender with its fall in 1942.
After experience in the notorious Changi prison he was sent to Thailand to work on the Burma Railway. After the war he remained in he army until 1949 having been mentioned in despatches because of his contribution as a Prisoner of war. He joined the Colonial Services posted to what is now Ghana until 1955. He was married in 1945 within weeks of being liberate with three children, one died at birth and eldest when 47. The youngest survives. In 1980 first met and then married a Canadian young woman 17 years his junior in 1983 after she had moved to the UK a year before. He died in 1012 aged 92.

Not having read his autobiography I have no idea how much of the film is artistic licence although I can confirm that as with the autobiography he does not mention his first family and in a twist the only surviving member his daughter attended the London premier

The main story played by a younger actor explains than when working on the railway he built a radio to listen to the news but was not a transmitted or able to receive messages. When it was discovered he admitted being responsible to save others from torture and death an act of exceptional bravery in the circumstances and for which he was beaten and tortured with the equivalent of water boarding. He survive but remained full of anger about what happened and unable to communicate.

In the film he remains a loner but a member of the Scottish branch of a ex POW’s who meet from time to time and it was during one of his trips that he is alleged to have met up with his second wife although we have the impression is has never married. She finds the barrier with his mood swing difficult to cope with and consults on of the seniors in the POW group who talks of the experience to her but the wants Lomax played by Colin Firth in later lifer to kill one of those involved whose photograph is shown in a news paper article about the man leading tortures to the camp which has become a museum. The branch leader commits suicide as a way to force Lomax to take revenge. He eventually goes back and confronts the former Japanese soldier who in fact was not responsible for the torture but acted as interpreter for the jailers and later worked with occupying powers, returning as a pilgrimage to tell the truth about what happened. Lomax was able to find peace through reconciliation and thus make something of his second marriage. Nicole Kidman plays his wife.

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