The Railway Man is one of those past-present films that has two sets of actors playing the same people. Colin Firth and Jeremy Irvine play Eric Lomax. He was a real-life railroad enthusiast and soldier who was captured by the Japanese during World War II. Lomax secretly built a radio so he and his co-captors could get news of the allied war against the axis.
Caught with the radio, Lomax is tortured. That trauma transforms him into a troubled and haunted man. Later in life he meets and marries Patti. She wants him healed and whole.
Great performances dot a landscape punctuated with perfect sets. Firth's quiet often panicky performance is exceptional. So is the work of the fresh-faced, innocent Irvine. The rarely seen these days Nicole Kidman plays his wife Patti. She anchors his life and pushes the plot forward.
Tanroh Ishida and Hiroyuki Sanada play Eric's torturer past and present.
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Ironically and brilliantly, director Jonathan Teplitzky's style defines each character differently -- depending on the point of view -- until they merge into one when the past catches up with the present.
This is great storytelling. Teplitzsky patiently takes you through time. He goes from present to the past and back again over and over, and slowly drives Lomax, Patti, his torturer and others to an intense and moving climax.
Director: Jonathan Teplitzsky
Stars: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeremy Irvine, Tanroh Ishida and Hiroyuki Sanada
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
Rated R for mature themes, violence. It's playing at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.
-- Love him or hate him, Mr. Movie's blog is available for venting at www.tri-cityherald.com/arts/mrmovie.