Meet Colin Firth. Actually, for the next 108 minutes, you can call him Eric Lomax. He likes trains. He uses his vast train knowledge to woo women. On trains. He’s a man after Matt’s own heart. Matt likes trains. But wait! Just when you think you know where this movie is going, it turns from a movie about a guy who loves trains “a train enthusiast” he calls himself, into Unbroken, with slightly more trains.
Like Unbroken, Railway Man is based on a true story. Unlike it, this guy turns out to be pretty broken (although if we’re being honest, so did the guy in Unbroken…yes, they’re very brave during the war, but they go home really sick and deal with their crap for the rest of their lives). During the rest of Lomax’s life, he failed to really deal with the flashbacks and the PTSD symptoms so when he meets Nicole Kidman (call her Patti) and marries her in quick succession, she’s pretty surprised by his violent dreams and his sobs and his emotional distance. He won’t talk about what’s happened to him, but whatever it is, it’s killing him. Patti goes to his friend and fellow vet to hear the story – how they were captured and lived in a Japanese camp as slaves, building their railway under horrid conditions. Lomax was singled out for all kinds of abuse, and it turns out that all these years later, his captor and abuser is still alive.
The abuse we witness through flashbacks is disturbing and disgusting, but it’s also presented to us in a rather understated fashion. Because the movie is halved by into two time periods, “during the war” and “after”, we don’t get much (or enough) of either. It turns out be so similar to Unbroken (which I saw first, though this one preceded it in theatres) that it’s basically just the British version – with trains (sorry, couldn’t resist).