The Railway Man
Star rating: * * *
They share a flirty chat and a flask of coffee, then part – only to reconnect a few days later, thanks to Eric’s knowledge of timetables.
It seems like a fast track to a happy ending, but soon after the honeymoon Patti (Nicole Kidman) realises that her husband remains deeply traumatised by his experiences as a prisoner of war on the notorious Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway.
Firth and Kidman handle their characters with care, playing their anguish and hurt with sympathy and pathos. War Horse star Jeremy Irvine as the younger wartime Eric is also excellent, but The Railway Man is derailed by its clunky storytelling. Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky struggles to finesse some abrupt changes of tone, especially in a film that shifts from sweet love story to wartime trauma and then to revenge melodrama, with Eric seeking a final solution by tracking down his old tormenter, knife in hand.
The whole exercise deserves better than script platitudes (“I think we’ve just seen the fall of the British Empire”) and shots of Kidman looking helpless yet lovely.
The best thing that could come out of this rather stodgy biopic is that it may steer audiences towards Lomax’s fine and moving book.
Delivery Man (12A)
Star rating: * *
After a lengthy onscreen adolescence, Vince Vaughn finally faces fatherhood in movies, 533 times. In Ken Scott’s misconceived comedy, Vaughn plays a fortysomething underachiever who discovers the sperm he donated anonymously in his student days to a fertility clinic has produced hundreds of teenagers. Now, 142 of them have filed a paternity suit to uncover his identity.
Against the advice of his best friend and lawyer (Chris Pratt), he decides to find and help his offspring, without revealing the biological link. Amongst those receiving his stalky guardian angel ministrations are a drug addict, a wannabee actor, an interracial daughter and, in the film’s most nakedly manipulative episode, a special needs son in a wheelchair.
A Hollywood remake of Scott’s own 2011 French-language hit Starbuck, Delivery Man is an attempt to cross-breed soggy melodrama with forced comedy. The result shoots blanks.
General release from Saturday
Kiss The Water (PG)
Star rating: * * * *
Self-taught Scottish fly-tier
Megan Boyd made Atlantic lures from feather, fur and tinsel which were enthusiastically pursued by anglers and salmon alike. Eric Steel’s documentary casts its net amongst those who knew Boyd, and draws an intriguing portrait of a woman devoted to her craft, yet one who couldn’t bear to catch and kill a fish herself. It’s a pity there’s so little footage of Boyd, but Em Cooper’s animation bridges some of the gaps in this gentle, artful pleasure.
Selected release: Dundee Contemporary Arts, 10-16 January
Dirty Wars (15)
Star rating: * * *
Jeremy Scahill reports on the war on terror in a documentary that is fascinating about the United States’ use of targeted assassinations and drone strikes, but less compelling whenever it tries to make Scahill its focus instead of its narrator.
Selected release: GFT, 10-11 January