The Railway Man

Critics Consensus

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.



Total Count: 124


Audience Score

User Ratings: 15,519
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Movie Info

Based on the remarkable bestselling autobiography, THE RAILWAY MAN tells the extraordinary and epic true story of Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), a British Army officer who is tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II. Decades later, Lomax and his beautiful love interest Patti (Nicole Kidman) discover that the Japanese interpreter responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and set out to confront him, and his haunting past, in this powerful and inspiring tale of heroism, humanity and the redeeming power of love. (c) Weinstein

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Colin Firth
as Eric Lomax
Nicole Kidman
as Patti Lomax
Jeremy Irvine
as Eric Lomax (young)
Sam Reid
as Young Finlay
Tanroh Ishida
as Young Nagase
Tom Stokes
as Withins
Tom Hobbs
as Thorlby
Akos Armont
as Jackson
Bryan Probets
as Major York
Masa Yamaguchi
as Kempei Officer
Ewen Leslie
as Captain Thompson
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Critic Reviews for The Railway Man

All Critics (124) | Top Critics (37)

  • The Railway Man holds great possibility but wanders off track.

    Jun 9, 2017 | Full Review…

    Jenni Miller
    Top Critic
  • The filmmakers don't have the nerve for a serious consideration of trauma, vengeance, and forgiveness.

    May 8, 2014 | Full Review…
  • The critical problems are an overbusy time-jumping script and reliance on the conventions of the trauma drama - flashbacks, fragmentation, distorted time and space - that prove more a barrier than a window into the character's inner lives.

    Apr 25, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Beautifully acted, The Railway Man is profoundly moving, and yet, somehow, its sentimental ending manages to be both unearned and predictable.

    Apr 25, 2014 | Rating: 3/4
  • Why does the movie leave one cold?

    Apr 24, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

    John Anderson

    Top Critic
  • The quality of mercy isn't just strained in The Railway Man, it's measured out by the teaspoonful.

    Apr 24, 2014 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Railway Man

  • Jul 18, 2015
    The Railway Man is a good movie with great actors that failed to hit the mark. There are so many big names in The Railway Man that I expected it to be nothing but brilliant. The biggest problem is the failed attempt to create the kind of chemistry between Kidman and Firth that the writers and/or directors were going for. It doesn't matter who is in these pivotal roles, with the script they had to work with, nobody could have made this chemistry work. If they would have spent more time with the main characters during the war, the results would have been much better. Sanada and Firth's encounter is way too short and under examined. The Railway Man is based on a true story and, even though this movie is flawed, is impactful in many ways. The scenes between Kidman and Skarsgard's characters are masterfully done, but there wasn't time to dig any deeper into that relationship either. Ultimately they tried to do too much in this one film. Altogether it was a pretty good movie. One that I would recommend to any friend who likes dramas. The acting is very good and it moves along nicely, even if incompletely. Worth a watch.
    Jason C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 09, 2014
    Heartfelt from the start, poignant, compelling, and yet strangely subtle, Railway Man is a film of inspiration and one of melancholy, ending on a profound note, if not always achieving that during its run. Based on the autobiography, Railway Man tells the story of a British officer who was brutally treated as a prisoner of war, returned to his country as a man still deeply troubled, continuing the war in his own mind. Enter the lovely Patti Lomax (Nicole Kidman) who pushes Eric to confront his demeans, culminating in a painful confrontation of his past. The story is told through flashbacks, used interchangeably. These are frequent, and long lasting, which create two worlds that feel very real and well realized, yet can sometimes feel like separate entities, each with their own self-contained stories. Though this is a noted criticism for many, I found that ultimately the structure worked, and was impressed by the strong performances by the cast in both timelines. All performances are understated, as is the film, yet still powerful, headlined by a terrific performance from Colin Firth. The pace of the film can be slow at parts, yet dead-on in others. One problem that is created is that the momentum is not always carried over to the other storyline (past and present), with some shifts happening rather sporadically. One such shift was the discovery of Firth's post-traumatic stress, which felt oddly at bay at the beginning of the film. Yet, the film's restrained approach to the story showed a much appreciated respect to letting events unfold organically. The characters feel real, their traumas are real, and the film's message is always carried through. Ultimately, it's the performances that really carry Railway Man to an effective, and moving film. It's a penetrating character study, an exploration of human nature, and an ultimate triumph for forgiveness. 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 02, 2014
    Colin Firth's performance is the best reason to check out this film. He does a great job here. In general, all the performance are good, but the film itself could have been better. I felt like I was watching 2 films happening here. One of them a love story between Kidman and Firth and the other story is of Firth's backstory. I felt the film needed a rewrite, cause these 2 stories in my opinion didn't connect well, the way it is now in the film. I found the tone off. The film deals with the themes of forgiveness and redemption. It could have been handled better. Besides Firth, the film is well cast. Nicole Kidman does a great job here. Her role is more supporting and not leading. She has a great chemistry with Firth. Jeremy Irvine, who was great in War Horse, is excellent as the younger version of Firth. Stellan Skarsgard and Hiroyuki Sanada provide solid supporting work. I say, check it out for the performances, especially of Firth.
    Sol C Super Reviewer
  • May 29, 2014
    Superb "true story" drama with great acting from Firth and Kidman, this movie teaches more more about compassion and forgiveness than all the movies combined this year. (5-29-14)
    John C Super Reviewer

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