Based on the bestselling autobiography by Eric Lomax, The Railway Man stars Colin Firth as Erik Lomax, a man blighted by a terrible past. A delayed train to Manchester leads Eric to a chance encounter Patti (Nicole Kidman) aboard another train, realising the instant connection Eric later goes to meet Patti at the station (being a train enthusiast he knows exactly which station to meet her) and the pair are soon married.
However, the couple encounter a rocky road in the first years of marriage as Eric's behaviour becomes difficult to manage. The root of this behaviour stems from Eric's past in which he served as a POW during the Second World War helping build a major railway connecting Thailand and Burma, Patti tries to talk to Eric about his past but Eric remains unwilling divulge the horrors that he endured. In desperation, Patti talks to Eric's best friend Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård) to find out more about her husband's traumatic past.
The story of Eric's past is told in flashback where a young Eric Lomax (Jamie Irvine) suffers great trauma in the hands of the Japanese, whilst in the present he strikes up the relationship with Kidman's Patti. The scenes set in South East Asia are the better of the two periods of time in the early stages of the film as the brutal and harsh conditions in which the POWs had to endure are effectively brought to screen. Naturally, this area of the film evokes David Lean's 1957 classic Bridge Over the River Kwai in which both British and American troops build a railway bridge over the river Kwai, though the prisoners in the Lean's film were well fed in comparison to those in The Railway Man and because of this The Railway Man has a far better grasp on the inhumane treatment of the British POW than Lean's Oscar winning classic does.
Jeremy Irvine anchors the scenes in wartorn East Asia perfectly as he brilliantly elicits a great deal of sympathy for Eric whilst Colin Firth also does and equally compelling job as the older Eric Lomas as the film looks at the affect of Post traumatic stress disorder and how it can have long lasting affects decades after the war has finished. Firth also has some good chemistry with Kidman but it is scenes involving both Firth and Kidman and Kidman and a disappointing as well as miscast Skarsgård where the pace becomes somewhat slow and laboured. However, the 80s strand of the story picks up considerably in the film's superb and utterly moving conclusion.
The Railway Man is a powerful tale of forgiveness and courage, perhaps hindered by inconsistent pacing but both Jeremy Irving and Colin Firth's excellent performance and film's powerful conclusion makes The Railway Man a film worth sticking with.