The Flowers of War

Subscribe to Christian Bale alerts

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 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Fresh: 23 Rotten: 33

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew


Producer: Zhang Weiping

Starring: Christian Bale as John Miller, Paul Schneider 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

The Flowers of War Movie 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.


Subscribe to Christian Bale alerts


The Flowers of War Rating

" OK "


More Christian Bale

Entourage Trailer

After making a name for themselves in Hollywood, Vincent Chase and his entourage of friends from Queens have finally made a movie. The only problem...

Bastille - Things We Lost In The Fire [Live] Video

Live on the Honda Stage at Music Midtown in Atlanta, Bastille perform 'Things We Lost In The Fire', the final single from their debut album...

Bastille - Oblivion [Live] Video

Bastille perform their single 'Oblivion' live on the Honda Stage at Music Midtown in Atlanta. The track followed Platinum hit 'Of The Night' and featured...

HAERTS - Interview Video

Brooklyn band Haerts released their self-titled debut album this year, and here they talk about how they first got into music, their lifelong friendship and...


Mark Ronson - Daffodils ft. Kevin Parker [Audio] Video

Mark Ronson will finally unveil his fourth album 'Uptown Special' on January 26th 2015 through his new label deal with Sony Music. He has teamed...

Meghan Trainor - Lips Are Movin [Live] Video

Meghan Trainor performs her latest single 'Lips Are Movin' at one of her favourite places in the world: an aquarium. The song features, alongside smash...

HAERTS - Be The One [Live] Video

Haerts perform an intimate live rendition of their song 'Be The One', taken from their self-titled debut album released in October 2014 through Columbia Records....

ScHoolboy Q - Hell Of A Night Video

ScHoolboy Q released his first number one with third album 'Oxymoron', and he now unveils the video to its latest single 'Hell Of A Night'...