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A long, quiet train ride to forgiveness
Published 13/01/14

Starring: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine, Stellan Skarsgård

ANYONE who has not yet read the biography of British World War II veteran Eric Lomax, on which this film is based, is advised to do so in the next few days before going to see this film. Lomax died last year, and this book, detailing his capture by the Japanese in Singapore, forced labour on the Burmese railway and subsequent torture — including waterboarding — for making a radio, is quiet, considered and a true one-off.

Lomax was a steam train enthusiast as a young man, with idealist views of how railways could unite peoples. It was the ultimate irony, then, that he was forced to work on the “death railway” that featured in Bridge Over The River Kwai. What is unique about Lomax’s story is that, after meeting his second wife Patti later in life, he is forced to confront the memories that haunt him.

He is filled with so much hatred for the Japanese that he can’t even bear to be in the same room as one. Yet years of therapy later, he meets the young Japanese translator who was complicit in his torture, and finds it in his heart to forgive. It is a remarkable story of the horrors that one man will inflict on another in the name of war, and the enduring power of the human spirit.

In this movie version the story starts with middle-aged bachelor Lomax (Firth) meeting Patti (Kidman) on a train. The gorier parts of his story are told in flashback, with Jeremy Irvine playing the younger soldier.

In his book, Lomax reflects that Bridge Over The River Kwai was not a true depiction of reality, and it may well be that a dash of Hollywood hype has been employed to similar effect in this movie. Nevertheless, it’s a story worth reading, watching or both, particularly for the parallels that may be drawn with modern conflicts.

PUBLISHED 13/01/14

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