The Railway Man
The Weinstein Company
Rated R for disturbing violence
Colin Firth Effectively Exudes Angst As Tortured WWII POW
Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) served as a signals officer in the British Army during World War II. His unit was dispatched to the Pacific theater where it was captured by the Japanese whenSingaporefell in 1942.
They soon joined the 60,000+ POWs subsequently forced to build the Burma Railway stretching from Bangkok to Rangoon. The Allies came to call the 258-mile construction the Death Railway, because so many soldiers perished along the way, including 6,318 of Lomax’s fellow Brits pressed into slave labor by their barbaric captors.
Their grueling ordeal has been brought to the big screen before, most notably in The Bridge On The River Kwai, the Academy Award-winning classic starring Sir Alec Guinness which swept the Oscars in 1958. That fictional adventure revolved around the daring exploits of some heroic saboteurs in the face of overwhelming odds.
By contrast, The Railway Man is a relatively-introspective affair. This poignant character study is based on Lomax’s moving memoir of the same name. And although he survived the war, he remained mentally scarred long after his physical wounds healed.
For, he had been subjected to unspeakable torture ranging from brutal beatings to waterboarding, especially at the direction of one particularly-sadistic interrogator, Nagase Takeshi (Tanroh Ishida). Eric had aroused the suspicion of the Japanese when he was caught with detailed drawings of sections of the railroad on which he was working.
Truth be told, he’d always been fascinated by trains while growing up inEdinburghand had sketched such maps throughout childhood. But since the frustrated Nagase still suspected otherwise, the punishment only escalated.
Upon the cessation of hostilities, Lomax returned home a broken man unable to readjust to civilian life. Sure, he could commiserate with former platoon mates at the veterans club, yet the memories ofBurmanevertheless continued to haunt him.
Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (Better Than Sex), The Railway Man is a heartrending, flashback flick set both during World War II and in 1980, which is when Lomax’s loyal wife, Patti (Nicole Kidman), urges him to track down Nagase. Her hope is that a meeting might help her traumatized husband exorcise his demons and thereby recover from his severe psychological afflictions.
Eric’s ensuing sojourn back to the Orient inexorably leads to a confrontation with the tormentor whose face he’s never been able to erase from his mind over the intervening decades. But the question is whether he’ll be able to resist the desire for revenge in favor of reconciliation.
A remarkable illustration of the human capacity to find peace through forgiveness.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 116 minutes
Rated R for violence and ethnic slurs.
Black Bounty Hunter And Fugitive Slave Forge Unlikely Friendship In Civil War Saga
It is 1864, and the bloody conflict between theUnionand the Confederacy is raging. Against the ominous backdrop of battle and cannon fire in the distance, we are introduced to Will (Ashton Sanders), a 13-year-old orphan ostensibly wrapped up in his own struggle to survive near the front lines.
Separated at birth from the mother he’s never known, the vulnerable black boy is trying to save enough money to track down his long-lost dad. He works as the assistant to Burrell (Bill Oberst, Jr.), a bounty hunter in the fugitive slave business. Will does the white Southerner’s bidding by first ingratiating himself with unsuspecting escapees, and then betraying them once they confess to being runaways.
Today, we find him on a mission in search of an ex-slave named Nate (Tishuan Scott). Will gains his confidence by offering to escort him back below theMason-Dixon Linefor a deathbed visit with a dying brother.
That establishes the absorbing premise of The Retrieval, a riveting road saga with escalating tension. Will Nate catch on before he’s turned over to Burrell? Or might the kid have second thoughts about striking a bargain with the devil?
Written and directed by Chris Eska, The Retrieval made a splash on the festival circuit including at South By Southwest last year where Tishuan Scott won the Special jury Prize in the Breakthrough Performance category. Besides being blessed with great acting, this atmospheric mood piece features eerie cinematography that manages to transport you back to the Civil War era more convincingly than either 12 Years A Slave or Django Unchained.
Slavery revisited as a sick institution making for strange bedfellows.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 94 minutes
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