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Hammerle On … 'The Railway Man,' 'Under the Skin'

Robert Hammerle
May 7, 2014
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hammerle_railway2.jpgThe Railway Man”

One of the great movies in cinema history was David Lean’s “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957). Dealing with the horrid mistreatment of British prisoners of war by the Japanese in World War II as they were forced to build a railroad in the jungles of Burma, it left one unanswered question. How did the survivors on both sides adapt to life at home after the war ended?

“The Railway Man” provides an answer in chilling fashion. The extraordinary Colin Firth plays Eric Lomax, a former British soldier haunted by his time in captivity. Appearing normal, he rides trains in England as both a hobby and to escape his past.

In the process, he meets regularly with old military comrades, guys who provide collective support without saying one word about their ordeal. Stellan Skarsgard gives another accomplished performance as a close friend who helps Lomax protect their dark secrets.

Lomax meets a divorced woman on one of his train rides, and he falls in love and marries her. Played warmly by Nicole Kidman, she seeks to help her husband confront his reoccurring nightmares.

A critical moment in this film occurs when Kidman’s Patti beseeches Skarsgard’s Finlay to reveal what really happened after they surrendered to the Japanese. Patti learns of her husband’s lengthy torture that resulted from his creation of an old radio designed solely to allow his battered friends to listen to news and music from England.

The film reaches its denouement with the discovery that one of Lomax’s Japanese tormenters is not only alive, but conducting a tour of the original prison camp and surrounding work area in Malaysia. Lomax must decide if he is to confront his adversary, and the movie defines the character of both men.

While Firth is wonderful at every turn, he is matched by the performance of Hiroyuki Sanada, playing a man equally haunted by his past war experience.

“The Railway Man” is based on a true story, and I couldn’t help but feel its relationship to the unforgivable torture that our country inflicted on captives under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. As we watch Lomax being hideously waterboarded in “The Railway Man,” wasn’t that the same reaction of many Islamic captives under our control?

If we are to condemn Japanese military superiors for their cruel treatment of Allied soldiers in World War II, don’t we also need to condemn our own country for engaging in the same activities in the 21st century? How can we excuse that which we consider forbidden?

Under the Skin”

Tantalized by some intriguing reviews, I was lured to see Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin.” One critic called it “dazzling,” while another labeled it “the best science fiction film in 10 years.” Let me simply say that I was misled.

Sure, it stars Scarlett Johansson, but there is nothing remotely memorable about her performance. The film is hard to understand from its delusional opening credits, and the few moments that are intelligible are appallingly offensive.hammerle_skin.jpg

Without giving anything away, Johansson is an alien who spends the entire film roaming in a van in Scotland to entice decent men to their demise. It seems that she and other extraterrestrials are in need of skin to make them appear members of the human race, and victims die peacefully as they follow a gradually disrobing Johansson into dark buildings.

In effect, Johansson plays the role of an exotic fishing lure designed to hook human trout. It was interesting the first time it happened, and it left you thinking, “What’s next?” The problem is that nothing was next, only a repeat of the same thing over and over again.

The film is nearly devoid of dialogue, which only added to its incredible boredom. However, there were several scenes between Johansson and her male victims that were so off-putting they leave you to regret entering the theater.

The first concerned a father on a Scottish beach with his two young children and their dog. When the dog swims out into the waves, a 10-year-old boy swims after him, leaving both drowning. The father desperately swims after them, leaving a 2-year-old child on the beach. When the father starts to flounder, a caring bystander swims out to grab him and bring him back to the shore.

As the bystander lies gasping for air, the father bolts back into the water where you can guess the results. Seeing all this, Johansson walks up to the gasping stranger, hits him over the head with a rock, killing him. As the 2-year-old child cries, she ignores him while dragging off the dead body. You can almost hear her mumbling, “Shut up, kid, I need a little skin.”

The second unconscionable episode concerns the seduction of a poor, facially deformed man who resembled the central character played by Eric Stoltz in the movie “Mask” (1985).

Upon some reflection, I know that the purpose of the film was for Johansson to display an alien who simply didn’t understand acceptable norms of human conduct. On the other hand, she did learn how to drive, not to mention using her sexuality, and her inability to remotely care about the most vulnerable people in our society was inexcusable.

Regardless, I’ve warned you. See it at your own risk.•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
 

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  • Obsession
    Obsessing on Stellan Skarsgård ? Last week's porn review was a movie with this same leading man. Can this paper post reviews on movies that are more uplifting and inspiring? Many God-honoring movies out right now, why not one of them? Because Stellan Skarsgård does not star?
  • NOTHING NEW-SEE 'Terror from the Year 5000' for a good(bad?) alien scare!
    Have not seen this one, but it may have been influenced by 'Terror from the Year 5000' (1958-US). 'Terror' involves a superficially attractive radioactive mutant woman from the future brought back to the present via a time machine, invented by the Professor. She seeks to bring a human to the future to add genetic material to the gene pool which has been decimated by nuclear war. (SPOILER WARNING!) The visitor steals a human's face,, is now beautiful, and has almost talked a human male into going to the future with her when at the last moment the professor's daughter pulls off the visitor's mask revealing her grotesque radiation mutated face. One of the earliest and best uses of a horrific 'she-monster' to terrify the audience, which is what it sounds like is going on in 'Under the Skin', tho apparently Johansson's character is not disfigured but merely psychologically grotesque. Might have been a nice touch if she were both, tho doubt that Johansson would have taken such a role.

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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