A psychotic thriller, a war narrative, or just a rather un-conventional love story? It’s hard to fit The Railway Man into a single genre simply because it soothes through so characteristically on all these dimensions. Starring Colin Firth as the protagnist Eric Lomax, it seeps into the lives of the British prisoners of war in Singapore who were left behind after the British surrendered from their South-East Asian colonies during World War II. These men were then forced to build a railway for the Japanese as a compensation for their lives. A group of young soldiers decide to defy authority and build a radio so that they could receive information about the war, with Eric taking the lead on it. The radio is soon discovered and Eric is tortured into what goes down as an unimaginable exercise through brutality.

Years later, his wife tries to help Eric into overcoming his demons but he just wouldn’t talk about his past. After coming to know that the man who tortured him, Nagase, is still alive, he goes back to Singapore and tracks him down. Normally, one would have expected Eric to torture and kill Nagase the same that he was being tortured. But rather, Nagase is now a changed man and has realized the lies that he had been told to him. He pleas for mercy, and Eric forgives him in an unbelievable turn of events. To hug the man that beat the hell out of you not once, but several times, takes some heart. And it is this message that perhaps sets apart Railway Man as a true emotional drama.

The world is a grim place to live in. Only those who are able to break free of the shackles of their own selves, can truly know freedom. Railway Man teaches us an important lesson; there are lots of people who may have done wrong to you, in some cases terrible wrong, but the only way to gain peace is to let go and think beyond your suffering, to love, to cherish and to admire what you still have got left. While Nicole Kidman’s supportive role could have been enhanced a bit more, it might have taken the focus away from Eric around which the whole plot revolves. It is ultimately the story of a man who had to battle against himself to defeat the urge for vengeance.

Overall, a crisp outline and above-par performances serve to duly remind us of the horrors of war and instill in us the desire to get the war criminals punished, but by rule of law. It also elucidates the trauma that many soldiers have to go through each day and urges us to strive for a peaceful world. Perhaps so that we might take some action, instead of just getting entertained for two hours.

Mehreen Omer is a digital media scientist, a movie buff and a cultural critic. Follow her on Twitter