The Flowers of War (Film) Review

The Flowers of War

Released: 21st December 2011
Director: Yimou Zhang
Starring: Christian Bale, Paul Schneider, Ni Ni, Shigeo Kobayashi, Huang Tianyuan
Rating: R
Running Time: 145

In 1937, Nanking stands at the forefront of a war between China and Japan. As the invading Japanese Imperial Army overruns China's capital city, desperate civilians seek refuge behind the nominally protective walls of a western cathedral. Here, John Miller (Christian Bale), an American trapped amidst the chaos of battle and the ensuing occupation takes shelter, joined by a group of innocent schoolgirls and thirteen courtesans, equally determined to escape the horrors taking place outside the church walls. Struggling to survive the violence and persecution wrought by the Japanese army, it is an act of heroism which eventually leads the seemingly disparate group to fight back, risking their lives for the sake of everyone. -- (C) Wrekin Hill

Peter Bradshaw (Guardian [UK]) said:
"Bale is forthright and emotional in the role, and with a hint of boyish vulnerability, even reminds us of his 13-year-old self in Spielberg's Empire of the Sun."

Robbie Collin (Daily Telegraph) said:
"Zhang gives his fondness for chaste melodrama and shimmering colours full rein: it's a style that suits his courtly martial arts films such as Hero, but this material would have benefited from a more Spielbergian, or perhaps David Lean-ian, approach."

Trevor Johnston (Time Out) said:
"Zhang's flamboyant camera choreography and diva-ish flounces of melodrama are vivid but misplaced."

Angie Errigo (Empire Magazine) said:
"As you'd expect, it's beautiful, emotional and exciting, if florid in style. Bale, beauties and English dialogue widen Yimou's appeal."

Andrew Pulver (Guardian [UK]) said:
"The Nanjing massacre is still a running sore in China's 20th century history, and Zhang is brave to take it on."

Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said:
"A third of a million may be dead, but for our purposes, all depends on the survival of these young women, and the redemption of the alcoholic American. Do you get my drift?"

Sheri Linden (Los Angeles Times) said:
""Flowers" abounds with well-worn movie archetypes and slathers on schmaltz."

Tim Grierson (Village Voice) said:
"Human suffering reduced to visual showmanship."

Mike Hale (New York Times) said:
"Zhang Yimou revisits the Nanjing massacre of 1937 by making something resembling a backstage musical, with breaks for the occasional ghastly murder or rape."

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