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The Railway Man: Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

The Railway Man (2014) movie poster The Railway Man

US Theatrical Release: April 11, 2014 / Running Time: 108 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jonathan Teplitzky / Writers: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Andy Paterson (screenplay); Eric Lomax (book)

Cast: Colin Firth (Eric Lomax), Nicole Kidman (Patti Lomax), Jeremy Irvine (Young Eric Lomax), Stellan Skarsgεrd (Finlay), Sam Reid (Young Finlay), Tanroh Ishida (Young Takeshi Nagase), Hiroyuki Sanada (Takeshi Nagase)

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When a movie from The Weinstein Company that is based on a true story and stars two fairly recent Academy Award winners opens in theaters in April, you know the project isn't meeting its full prestige potential.
That is the situation that The Railway Man, a British-Australian drama starring two of America's most respected imports, Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, found itself in earlier this year. The film, produced for $18 million, grossed $4.4 M in North America, a paltry sum but not terrible considering its theater count capped at 600. The film performed better in the leads' native countries, grossing almost $15 million combined in the UK and Australia, regions where it opened shortly after last Christmas.

Railway Man adapts the autobiography of Eric Lomax. The film opens in a UK Veterans Club in 1980, where Lomax (Firth) is telling his fellow World War II veterans of a recent train ride on which he met a woman named Patti (Kidman). Lomax, who describes himself as a "railway enthusiast, not a train spotter", and Patti, who has been a nurse for twenty years, quickly fall for each other. After he shaves his mustache, they get married.

"The Railway Man" stars Colin Firth as Eric Lomax, a train enthusiast still haunted by his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II.

This middle-aged romance quickly turns grim and into a war drama, because Lomax remains traumatized by his experiences as Japan's prisoner of war nearly forty years ago. Panic attacks prompt flashbacks to the 1940s, when as a young officer, Lomax (Jeremy Irvine, fittingly cast as the young Firth) is one of dozens of Allied soldiers captured in Singapore. There, once it sinks in that the Japanese intend to use the Brits to build a railway west of Baghdad through mountains and valleys, a vast, unenviable and soul-crushing undertaking (famously fictionalized in the Oscar-winning film The Bridge on the River Kwai). Lomax and company stealthily assemble a radio using parts they can get their hands on, but that only leads him to severe punishment, including extreme torture.

In the 1980s, motivated by the death of a close friend and fellow POW, Lomax reluctantly plots revenge against one of his tormentors, a sadistic interpreter named Takashi Nagase (now Hiroyuki Sanada) who has never been tried as a war criminal.

The biggest film to date from Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky (Burning Man), The Railway Man poses as something important and emotional. Unfortunately, though it looks nice and features fine acting, it doesn't convince you of either of those qualities. A film about a real WWII POW has an easy path to the heartstrings and maybe this will resonate for those old enough to have a direct link to that era. For the rest of us, it feels like a half-baked blend of torture and revenge, elements you don't expect to encounter in a Weinstein period drama.

Patti (Nicole Kidman) catches Eric's eye and ear on a train with train talk. Jeremy Irvine is well cast as the younger version of Colin Firth's Eric Lomax.

The one redeeming value is that it's based on a true story. That a real man endured these experiences and lived to tell the tale provides some of the weight that the film is otherwise conspicuously lacking. Sadly, Lomax did not live to see this filming of his life (assuming he wanted to, which a supplement suggests he didn't), having passed away at 93 in October 2012, in between production and release.
That is an eerily similar predicament to Unbroken, a forthcoming Angelina Jolie-directed drama about US Olympic athlete, World War II hero, and Japanese POW Louis Zamperini, whose story, scheduled to open on Christmas Day, is being perceived as a real awards contender.

This adaptation of Lomax's book didn't attract that kind of buzz or acclaim, with critics divided on its worth. The happy ending it earns cannot undo the missteps and slowness of the preceding 90 minutes, even if it leaves viewers feeling good and with hope in humanity.

As the real prestige pictures start making their way to theaters, Railway Man can already be enjoyed in the comfort of your home. It hits DVD and Blu-ray today, the latter including Digital HD UltraViolet, from Weinstein home video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment.

The Railway Man: Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extra Subtitled in English
Release Date: August 12, 2014
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


The Railway Man looks every bit as polished as an end-of-year release. The Blu-ray's cinematic 2.40:1 presentation is sharp, pristine, and highly detailed. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is also commendable, with certain explosive war sounds grabbing your attention from time to time and dialogue staying crisp and audible in more frequent quiet moments.

Journalist Lisa Ling (formerly of "The View") hosts "The Making of 'The Railway Man.'" Colin Firth poses for a picture with the real Eric Lomax on the set of "The Railway Man."


The Railway Man is joined by two bonus features. First up is an audio commentary

by director Jonathan Teplitzky and co-writer/producer Andy Paterson. These two men cover the obvious bases -- sharing filming locations and praising the cast onscreen, and addressing the true story -- with very little excitement or personality. I can't imagine many people who weren't involved with the making of the film deriving much enjoyment from this.

On the video side, we find "The Making of The Railway Man" (26:07, HD), a TV special-quality featurette hosted by Lisa Ling. It looks at Eric Lomax's experience as a part of World War II at large and devotes plenty of time to promoting the film with clips, behind-the-scenes, and comments from the cast, crew, and the real Eric and Patti Lomax.

The disc opens with HD trailers for Philomena and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, neither of which is accessible by menu. Per Weinstein practice, Railway Man's own trailer is not included here at all.

The ordinary menu plays screen-filling clips with listing below and a subtle effect on the sides. The Blu-ray does not support bookmarks or let you resume playback.

An insert supplying directions and a unique code for your Digital HD UltraViolet is the only thing joining the full-color disc in the unslipcovered keepcase.

In "The Railway Man", Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) tracks down and confronts the Japanese man who tortured him decades earlier in a POW camp.


The Railway Man is more moving on paper than it is on film. This sluggish drama fails to connect emotionally until its final scene and that is too little, too late. A true story like this should be gripping and powerful, but unfortunately this film almost never is.

The Weinstein/Anchor Bay Blu-ray provides top-notch picture and sound plus a fine making-of featurette. There's nothing special enough here to merit a recommendation, but those interested in the film or already fond of it should not be disappointed by this suitable platter.

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Related Reviews:
Colin Firth: The King's Speech • Devil's Knot • A Single Man • Arthur Newman • Gambit
Nicole Kidman: Australia • Margot at the Wedding • Eyes Wide Shut • The Paperboy • Billy Bathgate • Nine
Jeremy Irvine: War Horse | Stellan Skarsgard: Insomnia • Amistad | Hiroyuki Sanada: Sunshine
Philomena • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom • The Thin Red Line • This Must Be the Place
2014 Movies: The Monuments Men • Noah • The Grand Budapest Hotel • The Lunchbox

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Reviewed August 12, 2014.

Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 The Weinstein Company, Screen Australia, Silver Reel, Screen Queensland, Creative Scotland, Screen NSW, Lionsgate UK
and 2014 The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.