Thai-Burma Railway survivor Eric Lomax has a fascinating story to tell.

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Nicole Kidman. Picture: Supplied

The Railway Man (M)
2.5 stars
Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman
DIRECTOR JONATHAN TEPLITZKY

REVIEW MARK NAGLAZAS

Eric Lomax, a psychologically damaged survivor of the Thai-Burma Railway who confronted one his Japanese torturers, has a fascinating story to tell, a narrative of forgiveness and reconciliation that speaks to a world forever changed by the example of Nelson Mandela.

Unfortunately, Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky (Burning Man) has not found a way to give Lomax's tale the dramatic weight, narrative tension or emotional charge it deserves. This is a pity because Colin Firth gives a powerful performance as the older Lomax, subtly embodying a man tormented by the horror of what happened to him while enslaved with thousands of other British soldiers in the wake of the sacking of Singapore, yet a military man with enough steel to face up to one of his brutalisers. And Teplitzky spares us little in the depiction of the building of the railway, with dozens of painfully emaciated men struggling to stay alive in the face of the breathtaking cruelty of their overlords.

But in moving between scenes of the young Lomax (Jeremy Irvine, of War Horse fame) being punished relentlessly for a relatively minor crime, and the post-war story in which Eric's wife Patti (Nicole Kidman) struggles to cope with her husband's nightmares, the film struggles to establish a satisfying suspense and momentum. David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai might be a more fanciful tale but it gripped in the way that The Railway Man does not.