The memoir of Eric Lomax, a man held as a Prisoner of War and forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway, had the potential to form the basis of an excellent movie. Unfortunately in the hands of director Jonathan Teplitzky it’s a flaccid hodgepodge of sentimentalism and redemption with an overbearing amount of romance crammed in to satisfy its grey haired target audience. The film goes to great lengths to show the impact that those harrowing years had on the central character but in doing so waters down its effects. Over and over again we are shown Lomax as a reserved, quiet man who is screaming on the inside and the more we see it, the less it holds sway. Instead of focus, Teplitzky meanders through the aging Lomax’s mind, boring his audience when he should be shocking them.
The film works using flashback to show tantalising glimpses as to what happened between 1942 and the end of the war and this is when the film is at its strongest. The numerous scenes in later life do little to add to the story before a terrific climax in which Lomax is reunited with the Japanese soldier who tortured him while a prisoner. The elder Lomax is played by Colin Firth who while always watchable, sometimes looks as though on auto pilot. His younger self is an excellent Jeremy Irvine who captures the mannerisms and speech of his older co-star. The remainder of the film is miscast with a doe eyed and wooden Nicole Kidman as Lomax’s long suffering wife and Stellan Skarsgård as his Swedish sounding superior officer. Skarsgård makes no attempt at affecting an English accent despite the strong and pronounced accent of his younger self (Sam Reid). Tanroh Ishida is capable but hardly threatening as the young Japanese torturer who is played by Hiroyuki Sanada in the later scenes.