The Railway Man is based on a true story that shows the horrific aftermath of war – the mental despair that can occur. We meet Eric Laskow (Colin Firth) as a world weary man riding trains in England. His brilliance shines through when he chats with Patti (Nicole Kidman), and they fall for each other. Soon after marriage, she sees the real Eric as he suffers from war flashbacks.
In flashback we uncover his story. World War II in Burma, the British are beaten by the Japanese and men are taken prisoner. Eric Laskow, from the signal corps, and his buddies managed to steal enough parts as they dismantled gear to rebuild a radio. Meanwhile they are part of the slave labor building a railroad. Unfortunately, the Japanese discover the radio and also a map Eric has drawn. He admits to the radio and the map but had no ulterior motives. They suspect spying and Eric is subjected to horrific torture. The film handles this well – you cringe just watching the reactions of other prisoners.
In present day, Patti wants to help. She seeks out a fellow war hero to get more of the story. Henley tells her and also reveals to Eric that he’s found the Japanese man who did the torture. The man now conducts tours for the war museum. To reach some closure, Eric travels to Burma and confronts the man. He’s come to kill him, but as they talk he breaks down. He realizes, as does Takashiki, that they are different men now. Sadly they did their jobs as twenty year olds, with huge regrets.
There is closure for The Railway Man. This well done low key film depicts the underlying horror of war with gravitas. Colin Firth is restrained and you feel for the fiber of his soul. It is a very serious film that tells a great tale of forgiveness and bravery.