THE RAILWAY MAN IS A BIOPIC OF SOMEONE WHO DERAILS HIMSELF
The Railway ManWith talk of “war crimes” from Rachel Maddow in anticipation of publication of the report on “enhanced interrogations,” there is talk that the phony torture scene in Zero Dark Thirty (2012) will be cut. But there will be no such call in The Railway Man, directed by Jonathan Keplitzky. The film is a biography of two persons, Eric Lomax (played by Jeremy Irvine as a soldier, Colin Firth as a middle aged man adult) and Takashi Nagase (played by Tanroh Ishida as a soldier, later by Hiroyuki Sanada). In 1942, when Japan took over Singapore, captured British soldiers were sent by rail to a prison camp in Thailand on the River Kwai. But The Railway Man is no remake of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). The Japanese expected them to commit harakiri honorably when the British colony was defeated, so they treated them as less than human upon arrival in the camp. One day Lomax is caught with a drawing of the railroad and a radio instrument, which built to supply information about the course of the war, so he is brought in for questioning. Nagase, the only prison camp official who can speak English, will not accept the explanation that he’s a nut about railroads and that the radio is a receiver that cannot broadcast. Nevertheless, Lomax is tortured: Filmviewers observe him pummeled thunderously, placed in a cage in the hot sun, and even waterboarded. When the Japanese are defeated, prison guards are rounded up for war crimes trials. Nagase saves himself by saying that he was only an interpreter. Meanwhile, Lomax returns to Britain, later marries Patti (Nicole Kidman), but is so haunted by the experience that she seeks out one of his fellow prison buddies, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgaard) to learn what, to her dismay, bothers Lomax. Finally, after that buddy commits suicide, evidently because of the pain of recollecting for Patti, Lomax decides to go back to the prison camp, which has become a museum, where he meets Nagase again, now as a tourist guide at the site. Although Lomax contemplates killing Nagase, he decides to interrogate him in the same nasty manner, only to learn that Nagase has remained at the prison museum to atone for what he realizes is his dishonorable past. [Spoiler alert: When Lomax learns that Nagase is a changed man, the two become friends, and Lomax returns to England to bring Patti with him to see the two hug after Nagase bows and sobs before Lomax.] Titles at the end inform that Nagase died in 2010, Lomax in 2011, and the book, The Railway Man (1995) by Lomax is the basis for the film. The Political Film Society has nominated The Railway Man as best film exposé, best film on human rights, and (in light of the ending) best film on peaceful conflict resolution of 2014. MH

ILO ILO DEMONSTRATES WHY SINGAPOREANS ARE UNHAPPY AND NEVER SMILE
Ilo IloThe Chinese title translates “Mom and Dad Are Not Home,” but the English title is the name of a town in the Philippines. Singaporean middle class parents of 10-year-old Jiale (played by Koh Jia Ler) have just hired Teresa (Angeli Bayani), a Filipino maid who leaves her own son behind in Iloilo, Panay Island, to make money for her family. The year is 1997. The economy is uncertain, as various countries in Asia experience economic meltdowns, and some in Singapore are losing their jobs. Their materialistic outlook is without any sign of joy of living. The wife (Yann Yann Yeo) constantly criticizes, often but not always for a good reason. The husband (Tian Wen Chen) secretly smokes and is a failure at business. Jiale, a naughty boy at school who is caned  in front of his schoolmates at one point, at first resents the maid, but in time learns that she is the only happy person he has ever met, and the two bond after she cares for him due to an accident caused by his impulsiveness. The film could be interpreted as a critique that life in nondescript Singapore is so dreary that there is ample cause to migrate elsewhere. [Spoiler alert: But the one who involuntarily exits the country at the end of the film breaks up the only true friendship featured in the film.] A product of the Singapore Film Commission, Ilo Ilo is directed by Anthony Chen.  MH

12 Years a Slave
42
2016
A Dark Truth
Aftermath
After the Wizard
All God's Children
Arbitrage
The Angel's Share
Argo
Bethlehem
Big Miracle
The Book Thief
Boys of Abu Ghraib
Broken City
The Butler
The Campaign
Capital
Captain Phillips
Cesar Chavez
China Heavyweight
The Company You Keep
Compliance
Dallas Buyers Club
Declaration of War
The Dictator
Divergent
Elysium
The Emperor
Farewell, My Queen
The Fifth Estate
For Greater Glory
Fruitvale Station
Gangster Squad
Generation P
Geography Club
Go For Sisters
Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Hyde Park on Hudson
Ilo Ilo
Kill Your Darlings
Knife Fight
Leonie
Lincoln
The Lone Ranger
Lula, Son of Brazil
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
The Master
Miss Bala
The Monuments Men
Mulberry Child
Nebraska
No
Omar
Out in the Dark
Oz: The Great and Powerful
Parkland
Philomena
Polisse
Promised Land
The Railway Man
Red Tails
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Rio 2096
A River Changes Course
A Royal Affair
Sacrifice
Saving Lincoln
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Side Effects
A Touch of Sin (Tian zhu ding)
Trade of Innocents
W./E.
Wadjda
War of the Buttons
West of Thunder
White House Down
The Wolf of Wall Street
Won't Back Down
Zaytoun
Zero Dark Thirty



NOMINATED FILMS
FOR 2014
(click on a title to read
a PFS review)

DEMOCRACY
Cesar Chavez

EXPOSÉ
Bethlehem
Cesar Chavez
The Monuments Men
Omar
The Railway Man

HUMAN RIGHTS
Bethlehem
Cesar Chavez
The Monuments Men
The Railway Man

PEACE
Cesar Chavez
The Railway Man

Click here to nominate a film






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