Railway Man a Movie Review

by Jo_Murphy

Lomax's autobiography Railway Man is a powerful story filled with love, forgiveness and compassion. The reality of war is a backdrop against which tenderness and loyalty shine.

Railway Man is a movie based on the book of the same name, which vividly captures British Army officer Eric Sutherland Lomax's experience of a Japanese prisoner-of-war work camp toward the end of World War II. The story tracks his journey to recovery from Post Traumatic Syndrome upon release from three years of hell. The action takes place well on into his life after the war. Having won the 1996 NCR Book Award and the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography, the movie may be set to become a box office hit. (Be warned that some torture scenes are quite graphic).

The Burma Railway

180,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked to build the "Death Railway"

The building of the Burma-Siam Railway, or Thailand–Burma Railway was a cruel venture from its inception.  During the movie, it is revealed that the British had considered building the railway before the Second World War.  They had abandoned the idea as being necessarily "brutal".   It stretched 415 kilometres (258 miles) between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar). It is said to have been built by the Empire of Japan in 1943, to support its forces in the Burma campaign of World War II, but it was actually built by forced labour (POWs). During the project, approximately 90,000 Asian labourers (mainly Romusha) and 12,399 Allied POWs died in the harsh and cruel conditions. This count included 6,318 British personnel, 2,815 Australians, 2,490 Dutch, about 356 Americans.  There were also some Canadians and New Zealanders.

The movies action takes place around two sets of relationships. The first is the lingering menace of memories that three men have as they try to come to terms with the ordeal.  Another is the romantic relationship between Patti and Eric Lomax, a newly married couple who struggle to deal with daily episodes of Eric's Post Trauma.  In the end, each of these relationships is resolved by an action of love.  

War Is Over




It is a story of heartbreak and courage.  It is also a story of transcendence.  

Weary Dunlop, another survivor of this terrible time in history once said......

In suffering we are all equal.

ANZAC Day Button

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A Movie About Reconcilliation

Why We Must Never Forget

Jonathan Teplitzky directed this movie and the role seemed to suite Nicole Kidman.  She performed at her best.  Many people did not like Kidman's performance in the movie Australia.  (Although I did).  As I watched this movie, I thought, "Well they will have to be satisfied with Kidman this time?"  She was refined, extremely dignified and laid back. The focus was on her husband, Colin Firth as he played the older Lomax, and with Jeremy Irvine as the young enterprising soldier who got himself into terrible hot water.  And yet, there is negative feedback about Kidman's performance on the web. "Nicole Kidman looks frozen and bizarrely queenly as Patti, the woman with whom Lomax was to find love and companionship in civilian life."  I was surprised to read Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian say this.  Perhaps one needs to be a woman to have an understanding of how a woman would feel and act under these trying circumstances?

I agree that Hiroyuki Sanada "brings dignity and restraint to the role of Nagase".  There seems to be quite a few books and movies being released at the moment that highlight what it would have been like to be living in a country regarded and reviled as a perpetrator in a war.  Another movie that comes to mind, which explores a similar theme is The Book Thief.   This movie is less graphic, but it also explores issues to do with guilt. What is would have been like for Germans who tried to protest when Hitler came to power?  Uncooperative German people did not fair well at all so it seems.

It was Nagase who spoke some of the most telling lines in the short movie.

We were all frightened.


You were the only one who told me the truth.

Strangely some reviews of the movie say that the plot was muddled! It wasn't.  When you go to see this very important re-telling of what is a powerful story about forgiveness, remember that it is about a man who is suffering from intrusive, war induced, post traumatic syndrome. (PST)  Of course, in this situation, the victim will have major flashbacks.  Of course their intrusion into the present world will be confusing. That is what flashbacks are; a confusion of the  past with the present.

When you relate to Kidman portraying Patti, remember she is a woman suddenly transported into a war zone.  Clearly it is not real, and yet it is wrecking her marriage.  Of course she looks frozen! Wouldn't you?  

I suggest you go to the movie and suspend judgement.  Allow yourself to be transported into the challenging imaginary world for a short while.


Do be prepared for some graphic flashback episodes. There were times when I had to turn away.

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Australia recently had an election (13th Sept 2013) and the winner, in theory, is the top dog in Australia. But he isn't.
"What can I do about treatment of refugees," "I am appalled at what mining is doing to our country, but I don't know what to do about it!" These cries are now heard on many forums.
Updated: 02/04/2014, Jo_Murphy
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Jo_Murphy on 12/14/2023

Au would be
Just you wait
You will catch it in a minute
Like a threat

DerdriuMarriner on 12/14/2023

"Wait for it!" sounds like Australian slang to me ;-D.

Unitedstatesian usage would be just having to wait for something, be that something boring or exciting.

What would the Australian context be?

Jo_Murphy on 12/13/2023

Still haven't seen this I will watch this one tonight.
However, I watched Spellbound.
WAIT for it!

DerdriuMarriner on 12/13/2023

Paddington has name recognition for me as the character in books and cartoons.

The two films, with Ben Whishaw as Paddington, were comprehensive, easy introductions that got me up to speed.

The two Paddington films worked as an educational tool because of the quality actors -- especially Kidman and Whishaw -- and the quality filming and script.

Jo_Murphy on 12/13/2023

This is back ground information I knew nothing about. How do you know so much?

DerdriuMarriner on 12/12/2023

The two Paddington films with Ben Whishaw as Paddington are charming.

Unfortunately, Nicole Kidman is only in the first.

It would have been interesting to revisit her character since her father was such an influence on Paddington and his Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo in Peru.

Jo_Murphy on 12/08/2023

No, I haven't seen this. But I teach about hybrid arts so this is one more thing I will do in the holidays. I will go watch Paddington.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/08/2023

Me too, I appreciated the Kidman performance in Australia. In fact, I cannot think of a film where she hasn't evidenced her talent and validated her appeal and her profession.

This may seem a bit facetious, in comparison to such a dramatic film as Railway man, but might you have seen her in Paddington?

The Kidman performance remains top-notch throughout the film, such that the ending for me tells me that justice was served but that her character was a human being albeit more flawed than fine.

Jo_Murphy on 12/05/2023

I had heard of him, but I have studied her a lot. It is all mind blowing - really!

DerdriuMarriner on 12/05/2023

The first paragraph to the first subheading, The Burma railway, backgrounds railway that the British delayed building because of technology being behind a "brutal" environment.

The Burmese independence movement consolidated around deadly, debilitating, deforming experiences during the Burma-Thailand railroad-building.

Aung San Suu Kyi perhaps is a name with worldwide recognition. But is that true of Aung San (Feb. 13, 1915-July 19, 1947)? Her father mentioned Burma Railway casualties and harm for his supporting independence from any and all colonial powers, be they Asian or European.

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