The Flowers of War

"OK"

The Flowers of War Review


This true story is so outrageous that we'd never believe it as a fictional tale. Especially since its big themes make it almost mythical. Yet while it's gorgeously produced on an epic scale, it also gets rather melodramatic and maudlin in the final act.

American mortician John (Bale) crosses 1937 Nanking as the Japanese finish their brutal invasion. He arrives at the cathedral, but the priest's body has been vaporised by a bomb so there's nothing for him to do. Hiding in the church are a group of orphaned pre-teen girls and one altar boy (Huang), who beg him to help them. Then a group of prostitutes arrive looking for refuge.

Reluctantly, he agrees to help them all hide from the marauding Japanese soldiers. And even more reluctantly, he starts looking for a way out.

Told from the perspective of one of the young girls (Zhang Xinyi), the story centres on the banter between John and one of the prostitutes (Ni Ni).

Relations between these two groups of young women aren't exactly smooth, and John does nothing to make anything easier. Thankfully both writer Heng and director Zhang refuse simplify the interaction. Less textured is the way Chinese soldiers are depicted as selfless heroes while the Japanese are all vicious rapists.

This is perhaps not so exaggerated, but it unbalances the movie. So when scenes turn weepy and the characters have unthinkable encounters with Japanese soldiers, the film starts to feel like emotionally manipulative propaganda.

This isn't to undermine the skill of the actors at creating balanced characters, as they are all engaging and intriguing. And Zhang's direction is artful and subtly clever.

But this approach makes us feel like the story itself, especially with its astounding final-act twist, is a legend rather than a literal account. Not that something so moving couldn't have happened, but filmmakers make it mythical, which of course undermines its ability to trigger the wrenching response they so clearly want us to have. In China, audiences who grew up with this history will no doubt be deeply stirred. Everywhere else, this film holds the attention with its riveting narrative, but leaves us doubting that it actually happened quite this way.



The Flowers of War

Facts and Figures

Run time: 146 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th December 2011

Box Office USA: $0.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $95.3M

Budget: $94M

Distributed by: Wrekin Hill Entertainment

Production compaines: Beijing New Picture Film Co. Ltd., EDKO Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Fresh: 23 Rotten: 33

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Zhang Weiping

Starring: as John Miller, as Terry, Ni Ni as Yu Mo, Tong Dawei as Major Li, Xinyi Zhang as Shujuan Meng, Shigeo Kobayashi as Lt. Kato, Atsuro Watabe as Colonel Hasegawa, Shawn Dou as Chinese Soldier

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Trumbo Movie Review

Trumbo Movie Review

An entertaining film about sobering true events, this is the story of notorious screenwriter Dalton...

Goosebumps Movie Review

Goosebumps Movie Review

Mixing the action, comedy and horror from novelist R.L. Stein's books into a family-friendly package,...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

This film demonstrates that you don't need guns to make an exciting thriller. Based on...

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

Not the subtlest director working in Hollywood, Michael Bay brings his surging machismo to this...

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

There's nothing clever about this deliberately rude and vulgar comedy, but certain audiences will find...

The Big Short Movie Review

The Big Short Movie Review

Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...

Advertisement
The 5th Wave Movie Review

The 5th Wave Movie Review

Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels...

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for a sequel no one really asked for, following...

Room Movie Review

Room Movie Review

One of the most extraordinary films of the year, this drama cleverly weaves in events...

Creed Movie Review

Creed Movie Review

While this film is basically Rocky VII, it's also much more than that, and perhaps...

A Perfect Day Movie Review

A Perfect Day Movie Review

An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an...

Partisan Movie Review

Partisan Movie Review

With his feature debut, young Australian filmmaker Ariel Kleiman tells a creepy story about a...

The Revenant Movie Review

The Revenant Movie Review

A wrenching saga of survival and revenge, Alejandro G. Inarritu's new epic is just as...

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who simply can't be ignored, especially when he lobs a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.