The Weinstein Co. paid a reported US$2 million for North American rights to The Railway Man after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September – but has waited more than six months to launch the film in the US.
US film critic/commentator Edward Douglas, who is a big fan of Jonathan Teplitzky's drama, has questioned that strategy.
“What I don't get about this movie is that the Weinstein Company picked it up at Toronto last September when they concurrently premiered a number of their movies like August: Osage County and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which aren't nearly as good,” Douglas writes in his website ComingSoon.net.
Douglas praised the performances of Colin Firth as Eddie Lomax, the WWII prisoner-of-war veteran who confronts one of his Japanese tormentors 40 years later, Nicole Kidman as his wife and Hiro Sanada as his nemesis.
“It’s a shame this has been delayed and essentially dumped into early April with very little fanfare,” said Douglas, who named the film as his pick of the week over other limited releases including Cuban Fury, Jim Jarmusch's vampire flick Only Lovers Left Alive, David Gordon Green's crime drama Joe and Hateship Loveship , which stars Kristin Wiig, Nick Nolte, Hailee Steinfeld and Guy Pearce.
Harvey Weinstein would no doubt say he chose this Friday as the optimum date to launch the film in New York and Los Angeles before expanding to other cities.
Firth, Sonada, Jeremy Irvine (who plays the younger Lomax) and producers Chis Brown and Andy Paterson attended the premiere in New York.
"It was interesting to see this movie after seeing footage from Angelina Jolie's Unbroken at CinemaCon, which offers a similar story of an American captured and tortured by the Japanese," said Douglas. "Granted, the flashback scenes with Jeremy Irvine aren't nearly as strong as the present day ones with Firth, who shows all the vulnerability of what he went through while in the POW camp.
“For the most part, The Railway Man rises above what could have been melodramatic ‘Oscar fodder' (which I'm sure it will be called anyways) due to how well the cast interprets the screenplay co-written by Frank Cottrell Bryce,” said Douglas.
“What really sold me on the movie though was the performance by Hiro Sanada as one of the Japanese interpreters in the present day, as Eric confronts one of the men responsible for his torture with plans to kill him, setting up a last act full of fantastic, dramatic scenes between Firth and Sanada, showing them both to be at the top of their craft.
“While it probably will appeal more to older moviegoers … it shows off real filmmaking and storytelling skill on the part of Teplitzky and a different view of WWII than we've seen before.”