Sunday, 26 January 2014

Review: The Railway Man

Photo source: Wikipedia

“Sometime the hating has to stop”
-Eric Lomax

The Railway Man tells the story of Eric Lomax, a former British officer in the Second World War and a POW after the defeat of the British forces in Singapore in 1942. As a POW, Lomax was sent to Kanchanaburi to build the Burma Railway which saw the cruelty of Japanese Army towards forced labour. His subsequent arrest by the Kempetai (Japanese secret police) for secretly building a radio narrates a series of torture towards those suspected to be disloyal to the Japanese. Although the war ended with the victory of the Allied forces, Lomax like many other POW was psychologically torn by the war and the reconciliation with Takashi Nagase who served as an interpreter during Lomax’s detention by the Kempetai finally brought a closure to the suffering of the war.

Book Review

The autobiography by Eric Lomax is extremely well written with exceptional details and descriptions of his wartime experience. The Railway Man had a great introduction which explained his fascination of the railway and trains; and developed with a great deal of details about joining the Post Office, then the work as a signaling officer in the UK and then in Malaya and Singapore. The defeat of Singapore and the life of a POW was well details. With the vivid description, I felt as though the events was happening right before my eyes. Although the book begins with rather lengthy chapters on his early life before joining the British forces, it also contained an adequate length on the times during the war. The chapters on the building of the Burma railway, his arrest by the Kempetai and the imprisonment in Singapore after being ruled guilty as a spy by the Japanese are rather heart wrenching to see how human life had almost no value during the time of war.

Growing up in Malaysia (previously Malaya) and having heard accounts of the war from those who had survived WWII, it was easy to relate to the torture that Lomax was subject to especially during the detention by the Kempetai. Having studied the period of Japanese occupation in Malaya and Singapore and the brutality involved in building the Burma Railway, Lomax’s account of his experience plays out like a book coming to life.

Though a majority of the chapters revolved around the torture either physically or mentally on him, the final chapters of post war life after returning to the UK is a smooth transition into the reconciliation of the wartime experience. The reconciliation between Lomax and the interpreter who interrogated him during the detention by the Kempetai ends the book with a heartwarming tone and showed how forgiveness is capable of setting one’s heart free.

The Railway Man is definitely a MUST READ especially for those who love a heartwarming story.

Movie Review

Staring an award winning cast, The Railway Man was rather disappointing. At the beginning, the plot is rather difficult to follow with multiple flashbacks but this ease out later in the movie.

Although the movie is based on the book, there is an extreme lack of consistency in the story and personally, some really important parts of the book had been left out which is such a disgrace to the book. For example:

1. “Keep your chin up”
The last thing that Nagase said to Lomax (“Keep your chin up”) before he was sent away from the Kempetai camp was omitted in the movie. That very line was the ice breaker during their reconciliation years later. How could a line of such significance be left out? The characters in the movie and the torture and punishment of the characters also differed strongly in the movie.

2. Torture and Beatings
The sequence of torture and beatings were messed up. It was also rather disturbing to watch Finlay hanging himself to death on a bridge when none of this was found in the book.

3. Discovering Nagase’s existence
Adding to the inconsistencies are how Lomax discovered that Nagase was still alive and their encounter after decades apart. Lomax certainly did not fly all the way alone to Thailand to attack Nagase by surprise, forced him to feel his pain of torture and locked him in a cage; like how the movie had portrayed. In fact, on Lomax’s account in the book, he was reluctant to even communicate with Nagase after discovering that Nagase was alive all these years.

Not only was the real Lomax reluctant about meeting Nagase, he had read the book written by Nagase and understand the pain Nagase had felt for the past decades. However, the movie potrayed Lomax as a rash and emotion driven man who made no enquiries about Nagase nor read the book written by him.

For heaven’s sake, Nagase was potrayed in the movie to be somewhat of a tour guide and said to his tourist he had made somewhat 30 missions to Thailand. The real Nagase made more than 100 trip!

4. Letter to Nagase
In Lomax’s account, Patti’s letter to Nagase was the key to their reconciliation and began the communication between them leading to their meeting in 1993. Again, none of this is mentioned in the movie.

Despite the inconsistency, the movie has a enjoyable plot like any other major productions. Both Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman potrayed their character superbly well and Jeremy Irvine did a great job as the young Lomax.

Is it a MUST WATCH movie? NO!
The movie is worth paying for to watch the award winning leads and a heartwarming tale, but I’d rather just spend it on the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment