The Railway Man
Curator and historian, Home of the Brave World War II Museum
Where and with whom did you see the movie?
I saw it at the Kahala Theatres with my friend Denise.
Overall, what did you think?
I was very impressed with this movie, and all the more so because it was the true, real-life story of Eric Lomax, a British soldier captured by the Japanese Army during WWII. The movie deals with his experiences as a POW, his mistreatment and torture by the Japanese, and how that has affected him later in life.
The violence and cruelty shown in this movie are very graphic and somewhat unnerving to watch. I think it should be noted that the treatment of the POWs by the Japanese as shown in this film was not in any way overstated or exaggerated. The Japanese army was among the most barbaric in history, and sometimes went to even far worse extremes than what is shown in The Railway Man. Anyone who doubts the capacity of the Japanese army for evil and cruelty need only read the book by Iris Chang, Rape of Nanking.
Without giving away the ending, what was one of your favorite scenes?
After their commanding officers surrendered the British soldiers to the Japanese, they were to be turned into slave laborers building a strategically vital railroad linking Burma with Thailand. The railroad would be built through almost impossibly difficult terrain and under horrendous conditions.
Upon their first arrival at a work camp, the soldiers saw the POW slaves who had been brought in previously. They were filthy, ragged, malnourished, disease-ridden and looked to be on the verge of death. It was a shocking and terrible revelation as they saw and realized what was to become their fate.
There was also a dramatic scene in which one of Lomax’s fellow POWs was being severely beaten by Kempeitai interrogators for a transgression which had enraged them. Lomax courageously steps forward to take responsibility and save his comrade. He does this even though this action will descend him into a life of hell.
On a scale of one to four stars, what would you rate this film?
I would rate this movie ★★★★ .
Was the message/theme clear?
The Railway Man is both a war story and a love story that takes place in the past and present. The war segments are shown in flashback and have Jeremy Irvine playing the young British signal corps officer who was captured by the Japanese in Singapore in early 1942. Colin Firth plays the present-day Eric Lomax, who because of his treatment by his Japanese captors, returned home from the war with psychological problems and what we now call PTSD. The love story has Nicole Kidman as Patti, the caring and supportive woman who marries Lomax and then finds she must find a way to help this troubled man exorcise his inner demons.
I think this movie uses the POW experience and its aftermath to explore the whole range of human nature and how variable they are and how they can change within the same person over time. Lomax demonstrates the traits of courage, honor, comradeship, resilience and the will to survive. His Japanese captors show and expose humanity’s dark side, but also an ultimate redemption. The movie illustrates polar opposites of human behavior, such as love/hate, cruelty/kindness and revenge/forgiveness.
On a different note, what’s new with you?
Our Home of the Brave Museum continues to expand with new additions. We are currently developing an exhibit relating to POWs. Also, we recently have acquired an entire new building to add to our museum complex. It will serve as a meeting place and party venue for both military and civilian groups and functions. We have called this building the “Brewseum” because we will be serving our own brand of specially brewed craft beers there. Our grand opening will be an event commemorating the June 6 70th anniversary of D-Day – the Allied invasion of France, which ultimately led to the defeat of Nazi Germany and victory in Europe. There will be many VIPs in attendance.