Jonathan Teplitzy’s The Railway Man rolled out on more than 400 screens in the UK last weekend and posted very solid numbers, despite the polarised reactions from Pommie critics.

The drama based on the autobiography of Eric Lomax, the former British army officer who was traumatised by his experiences in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, fetched £1.22 million ($A2.2 million) in its first three days.

 Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave was the top title, grabbing $4.5 million in its debut.

Most British reviewers lavished praise on the performances of Colin Firth as Lomax, Nicole Kidman as his wife Patti and Jeremy Irvine as the young Lomax.  Among the most positive was The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard, who wrote, “The unspeakable horrors dished out by the Japanese army to British prisoners-of-war working on the Burma railway are the subject of this extremely affecting and accomplished drama.

“Teplitzky finishes with a kind of catharsis rarely on offer: meek and deeply felt, a mature and moving exorcism.”

The Express’ Brian Fitzherbert took a similar view, opining, “There’s a restraint and old-fashioned reserve to The Railway Man that for much of the running time suggests that the powerful emotional conclusion the story deserves may prove elusive. However, those fears are put to rest by a wonderfully acted, very moving climax.”

The Daily Mail’s Brian Viner found the narrative to be slow at times and he judged the confrontation between Lomax and his tormentor Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada) as lacking sufficient dramatic intensity.

Viner added, “Still, there is so much to admire. It gives those of us who have, mercifully, never had to go to war a better understanding of the psychological damage suffered by former PoWs decades later, when we ourselves were young and carefree and looked on the men nursing their pints of mild down the British Legion as old codgers.”

The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Robey praised the performances by Firth and Irvine but said the multiple perspectives of the war made the recollections too impersonal and generic.

In the other corner, the Evening Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan complained: “Nothing about the film rings true… In a series of flashbacks Jeremy Irvine plays the young Eric. He gives a sweet, intelligent performance but he certainly doesn’t look hungry.

“For reasons best known to himself, director Jonathan Teplitzky has turned Lomax’s grim, modest, devastatingly tender memoir into a tall tale of derring-do. Mind the gap.”

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