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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. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  2. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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