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The Railway Man (film)

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Title: The Railway Man (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Jeremy Irvine, Jonathan Teplitzky, Better Than Sex (film), Burma Railway, Andy Paterson
Collection: 2010S War Films, 2013 Films, Australian Drama Films, Australian Films, British Drama Films, British Films, English-Language Films, Film Scores by David Hirschfelder, Films Based on Biographies, Films Set in Northumberland, Films Set in Thailand, Films Set in the 1980S, Films Shot in Australia, Films Shot in East Lothian, Films Shot in Edinburgh, Films Shot in Fife, Films Shot in Scotland, Films Shot in Thailand, Pacific War Films, The Weinstein Company Films, War Drama Films, World War II Prisoner of War Films
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Railway Man (film)

The Railway Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky
Produced by Chris Brown
Bill Curbishley
Andy Paterson
Screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Andy Paterson
Based on The Railway Man 
by Eric Lomax
Starring Colin Firth
Nicole Kidman
Jeremy Irvine
Stellan Skarsgård
Music by David Hirschfelder
Cinematography Garry Phillips
Edited by Martin Connor
Archer Street Productions
Latitude Media
Pictures in Paradise
Silver Reel
Thai Occidental Productions
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release dates
  • September 6, 2013 (2013-09-06) (TIFF)
  • December 26, 2013 (2013-12-26) (Australia)
  • January 10, 2014 (2014-01-10) (United Kingdom)
Running time 116 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £12 million[1]
Box office $22,320,893[2]

The Railway Man is a 2013 British–Australian-made war film directed by Jonathan Teplitzky. It is an adaptation of the bestselling autobiography of the same name by Eric Lomax, and stars Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine and Stellan Skarsgård.[3][4][5] It premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on 6 September 2013.[6]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Critical response 4.1
    • Box office 4.2
  • Historical accuracy 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


During World War II, Eric Lomax (Firth) is a British officer who is captured by the Japanese in Singapore and sent to a Japanese POW camp where he is forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway north of the Malay Peninsula. During his time in the camp as one of the Far East Prisoners of War, Lomax is tortured by the Kempetai for building a radio receiver from spare parts. This is apparently due to his falling under suspicion of being a spy for supposedly using the British news broadcast receiver as a transmitter of military intelligence. His only intention, in fact, had been to use the device as a morale booster for himself and his fellow prisoner-slaves. The torture depicted includes beatings and waterboarding.

Years later and still suffering the psychological trauma of his wartime experiences, with the help of his wife Patti (Kidman) and best friend Finlay (Skarsgård), Lomax (Firth) decides to find and confront one of his captors who had escaped prosecution as a war criminal. He returns to the scene of his torture after he has tracked down Japanese officer Takashi Nagase (Sanada) "in an attempt to let go of a lifetime of bitterness and hate".[7][8]



While he was working on the screenplay, co-writer Frank Cottrell Boyce travelled to Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland with Firth to meet 91-year-old Lomax.[9] Firth said of the film: "I think what is not often addressed is the effect over time. We do sometimes see stories about what it's like coming home from war, we very rarely see stories about what it's like decades later. This is not just a portrait of suffering. It's about relationships ... how that damage interacts with intimate relationships, with love."[8]

Rachel Weisz was originally to play Patti, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with re-shoots for other films.[10]

Shooting began in April 2012 in Edinburgh and North Berwick in East Lothian and St Monans in Fife, and later in Thailand and Ipswich, Queensland, Australia.[3][10][11]


Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, the film has a score of 66% based on reviews from 107 critics; the consensus reads: "Understated to a fault, The Railway Man transcends its occasionally stodgy pacing with a touching, fact-based story and the quiet chemistry of its stars."[12] At Metacritic, the film received a score of 59/100 based on 33 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[13]

Kidman, Firth, and Irvine were all praised for their roles. Katherine Monk of the Montreal Gazette said of Kidman "It's a truly masterful piece of acting that transcends Teplitzky’s store-bought framing, but it’s Kidman who delivers the biggest surprise: For the first time since her eyebrows turned into solid marble arches, the Australian Oscar winner is truly terrific" and finishing with "Coupled with some dowdy clothes and a keen ear for accents, Kidman is a very believable middle-aged survivor who will not surrender to melodrama or abandonment".[14] Ken Korman agreed with the notion stating "Kidman finds herself playing an unabashedly middle-aged character. She rises to the occasion with a deep appreciation of her character’s own emotional trauma."[15] Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail stated, "Firth gives the performance his all as a man trapped in a vortex of grief, shame and hate, but as in Scott Hicks’s Shine, which the film occasionally resembles, there’s an overtidy relationship between trauma and catharsis"[16]

Box office

The film grossed $4,415,429 in the USA, plus $17,882,455 outside the USA, for a combined gross of $22,297,884.[2]

Historical accuracy

Dr Philip Towle from the University of Cambridge, who specialises in the treatment of POWs, awarded the film three stars out of five for historical accuracy. Reviewing the film for History Extra, the website of BBC History Magazine, he said that, while he had no problem with the representation of the suffering of POWs and of the way in which the Japanese are portrayed, "the impression [the film] gives of the postwar behaviour of former POWs of the Japanese is too generalised, and the crucial meeting between victim and perpetrator was fundamentally changed for dramatic effect."[17]

Dr Towle said that Lomax's book makes clear that he prepared to meet one of his tormentors to seek some sort of closure. Yet, "to build up suspense, the film suggests that he went to the encounter determined on vengeance, and it was the meeting alone which led him to change his mind. The film also suggests that his tormenter was not expecting to meet Lomax, whereas in reality correspondence had prepared him for it".

Dr Towle also said the film "compressed the war so that it appeared as if the prisoners were rescued from the railway itself by the arrival of allied forces after the Japanese surrender.… In fact, the railway had been completed, as much as it was ever going to be, and the main dangers to the POWs came from starvation and disease, Allied bombing and the looming threat that all would be murdered by the Japanese at the end of the war".


  1. ^ Johnson, Simon (27 April 2012). "Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth unveil The Railway Man".  
  2. ^ a b "The Railway Man (2013)".  
  3. ^ a b "Colin Firth 'overwhelmed' by Scot's film story". BBC News. 2012-04-27. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  4. ^ Miller, Daniel (2011-10-31). "'War Horse' Star Jeremy Irvine to Play Young Colin Firth in 'The Railway Man'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  5. ^ Kemp, Stuart (2012-04-27). "'"Stellan Skarsgard, Hiroyuki Sanada Join Hollywood Stars in 'The Railway Man. Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  6. ^ "Nelson Mandela biopic to have world premiere at Toronto". BBC News. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  7. ^ Dawtry, Adam (2012-04-27). "Skarsgard, Sanada joins 'Railway Man': Pic stars Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman". Variety. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  8. ^ a b Scott, Kirsty (27 April 2012). "Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman aboard for second world war film The Railway Man | Film |". Retrieved December 2, 2013. 
  9. ^ Jones, Catherine (2011-09-29). "Frank Cottrell Boyce enjoys trip to Northumberland with Oscar-winner Colin Firth".  
  10. ^ a b Westthorp, Tanya (2012-03-08). "Kidman, Firth to hit Coast for film". (Queensland, Australia). Retrieved 2012-03-08. 
  11. ^ Bruce, Sarah (2012-04-27). "Mr Darcy becomes Mr Dowdy! Colin Firth starts filming The Railway Man... as Nicole Kidman makes a glamorous arrival on set".  
  12. ^ "The Railway Man".  
  13. ^ "The Railway Man Reviews".  
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Historian at the Movies: The Railway Man reviewed". History Extra. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 

External links

  • Official website
  • The Railway Man at the Internet Movie Database
  • The Railway Man at AllMovie
  • The Railway Man at History vs. Hollywood
  • Pathe News footage of the real railway
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