But it is also a film about redemption--through repentance, through hard work and through love.
It is mostly concerned with Eric years later, after he meets a woman and seemingly finds happiness--decades later. Nicole Kidman plays Patti in an understated role that reminds (again after her performance in Stoker) what a fine actress she is.
The war intrudes on Eric's happiness--even more so when he is told that one of his tormenters Takeshi Nagase (played by Hiroyuki Sanada and Tanroh Ishida) has been found--giving tours of the very railway where the British prisoners toiled and died.
What will Eric do?
This is the basis for the movie. Railway Man is not a film about geo-political aspects of war or about crimes against humanity in a broad sense. It is about the men involved and how they react. It is about Eric and his relationship with his wife vis a vis his experiences in the war. It is a small movie about a man who is trying to put the past behind him and live his life.
There are parts of the film that are designed to make you angry. But ultimately these merely serve to show that what is needed isn't anger but humanity, empathy and forgiveness. A small film, not one that will make much noise, get much notice or win piles of awards but it is moving, well-paced, beautifully shot and filled with excellent acting, even in small roles.