Grade: A-

Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky
Starring: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine

There are certain formulas most movies follow. It's when directors decide to tell stories in unconventional ways that a film really sticks with you. Such is the case with The Railway Man, a WWII-set drama that falters back and forth through present day and the past to discover how events in the past can stay with someone forever.

Colin Firth stars as Eric Lomax, a former British Army officer who was among a group of men who were captured and tortured by the Japanese during the last days of WWII. Years later, when Lomax has adapted to his surroundings, he meets the beautiful Patti (Nicole Kidman). After the two are married, Lomax begins relapsing into multiple episodes of terrors brought on by distress from the torture decades earlier. The story takes us back to those moments showing a young Lomax (Jeremy Irvine) bravely help lead a plan to reach outside of the enemy lines. When the plan is uncovered, the torture begins. One Japanese soldier, in particular, became Lomax's main torturer. When it is revealed in present day that one of Lomax's fellow soldiers had tracked down this Japanese torturer, and that he was still alive, Lomax begins a journey to meet this evil man and enact revenge. Leaving Patti behind, Lomax makes his way to Japan. What happens next is nothing short of an incredible testament to the human spirit and the idea of redemption.

The story is told beautifully through the lens by cinematographer Garry Phillips and the work of the incredible cast. Firth proves that he is one of the best currently working in Hollywood. Coming off of his Academy Award-winning turn in The King's Speech, he has developed a knack for allowing himself to completely become his character. The rise and fall of Lomax's torment is succinctly shown throughout each and every moment Firth is on screen. He doesn't even have to be speaking for us to believe his mind is full of despicable thoughts. He isn't hokey, either, which is refreshing. Kidman turns in beautiful supporting work here as the ever-forgiving Patti. Even Lomax is at his worst, she stays strong. Irvine, most recognizable from War Horse, should be the next big thing. He has a subtle way of letting even a facial expression tell the story. He was the perfect compliment to Firth's adult version of the character.

At times The Railway Man is hard to watch. It can be brutal, but never over the top. It's the scenes of torture that are just intense enough to allow you to share in the upset feelings without actually feeling the pain physically. There are little nuances here and there that could have been shaped up in editing, but overall this is a very interesting take on the WWII-genre film. It's ability to teach a lesson while telling an incredibly true story that really shines when the credits role. It's a shame it's getting such a quiet release or it'd possibly make a decent dent in the awards season later this year.

Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

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