Tag Archives: wwii

The Railway Man

It takes more effort to convincingly tell a story about reconciliation than it does one about revenge, as I found with The Railway Man, a gripping study of post traumatic stress disorder, the horrors of war and the scars they burn into people, often having lasting effects years later. Colin Firth plays real life WWII veteran Eric, who was captured by the Japanese along with his regiment and held as prisoner of war for some years in a hellish POW camp. His fixation and uncanny knowledge of railway systems all over the world unfortunately is misunderstood by the Japanese, resulting in brutal torture and interrogation which goes on for months, and when the war is over and they are released, turns him into a broken, haunted man. He eventually meets, falls in love with and marries Patti (Nicole Kidman), but the time spent in that camp has left wounds that seemingly will never heal, and he finds it hard to cope. His friend and fellow veteran Finley (Stellan Skarsgard) complicates matters when he discovers that one of the Japanese officials responsible for his treatment is still out there somewhere, and can be located. It’s a fascinating situation, for the man (Hiroyuki Sanada, full of haunting complexity) has changed and bears scars of his own in ways that Eric could not imagine before coming face to face with him. Their meeting and correspondence raised many questions about the nature of war and what it brings out in a person versus how time changes ones feelings, perhaps heals some wounds and shifts perspectives greatly. Director Jonathan Teplitzky tackles the story in a straightforward, traditionalist manner, letting the emotional beats speak for themselves, keeping the camera and editing mellow to allow the actors to organically perform. Firth is a brilliant actor who too often get me stuck in syrupy roles, he shines here especially well when he’s faced with the darkness of memory and we see exactly that reflected in his eyes. Sanada has the toughest role but lands it squarely, never cloying or reaching for emotional straws but rather letting the anguish build to a tipping point and than breaking down naturally in what has to be the film’s best, most honestly realistic scene. Kidman radiates compassion and is around for less of the story but still says a lot with her screen time and does excellent work. Kind of an under seen gem, this floated by off the radar back in 2014 but it’s rich, well told drama with three brave, finely tuned central performances.

-Nate Hill

Alan Parker’s Come See The Paradise


Alan Parker’s Come See The Paradise tackles a little spoken of, tragic period of American history: the internment of thousands of Japanese families in prison camps following the attack on Pearl Harbour, which sparked World War II. After the incident, a wave of frenzy and paranoia roiled across the states, and many of these people were separated from their loved ones for years, an event that altered thousands of lives, but not one you hear too much about in film. Parker is a born storyteller, whether it’s historical lore or gothic genre brilliance (insert obligatory Angel Heart reference), and here he approaches the subject matter with little to nothing in the way of melodrama, classic orchestral swells or tissue box bait, letting the story happen naturally and neutrally, the drama organically rising scene to scene as they happen. Dennis Quaid plays an Irish American man who falls in love with a Japanese girl (Tamlyn Tomita), and over a few years begins a life with her. He is a fiercely independent union man, passionately fighting for the working class, while she comes from a very tight knit family who rely on each other to make ends meet. Somehow the two of them make it work amidst the early stages of the American working machine, the love they have for each other keeping them afloat. Then the attacks occur. Quaid is separated from her and their daughter for over a decade, and the film’s pacing makes you feel every lost, broken moment of it. When their reunion does happen, it’s nothing like the romantic, tear jerking catharsis you’d expect, but a testament to Parker’s commitment to realism. The sadness comes from the hollow, unceremonious way in which these people are affected by such things, and how they simply go on, adapt and adjust, the pain an intrinsic part of everyday life. The movies show a different picture of that usually, an idealistic bubble where things always somehow end up alright, and every last thread is tied off somehow. Not with this one, which is why it may have been forgotten. In any case, it’s a beautifully tragic, eye opening piece that stays true to its narrative and follows it’s characters throughout bittersweet, minimalistic and believable arcs. 

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: The Last Drop


Before The Monuments Men, there was a dopey little WWII art heist flick called The Last Drop. Alright, it’s a tenuous connection but they’re centred around the same idea: what better time for a heist than the fog of war? Well, chaos is indeed the name of the game with this scrappy, obviously low budget barrel of fun, both in terms of setting and the film itself. The cast is the main draw, as is always the case with B movies.. without a few names, some veteran charisma, pieces like this would just be bereft of any value. Well they got Michael Madsen, because every movie needs a Michael Madsen, getting more screen-time than usual here as an American military honcho on the hunt for some priceless works of art that have gone missing from Berlin. It’s pretty much just a European wartime Rat Race, with various factions scrambling to find the loot and not get killed along the way. A platoon of Brits blunders across Holland, led by Sean Pertwee and including Tommy ‘Chibs’ Flanagan, Nick Moran, Rafe Spall, Alexander Skarsgard and more. A volatile German double agent (intense Karel Roden) pursues them all. Oh yeah, and Billy Zane calmly and deliberately poses for the camera as a Yankee operative with a fetish for wistful wartime romance, being as weird as Zane ever was. It all doesn’t make a ton of sense or add up to anything much at all, but it’s B movie bliss, and honestly I’d willingly watch this cast install drywall for ninety minutes, so one can’t complain about a silly little war flick that’s a bit rough around the edges. Good times. 

-Nate Hill