Title – The Flowers of War (2011)
Director – Yimou Zhang (Hero)
Cast – Christian Bale, Ni Ni
Plot – Based on Geling Yan’s novel Flowers of War looks at westerner John Miller’s (Bale) dealings with a group of female school girls and Red Light district working girls lead by Yo Mo (Ni) and there survival in a church as the Japanese invade Nanking in 1937.
“Sometimes the truth is the last thing we need to hear”
Review by Eddie on 11/12/2013
Famed Asian director Yimou Zhang’s big budget version of the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 is one of the most baffling and tonally uneven films you ever likely to lay witness to. What we have here is a film that at one moment will be laughably comical and the next deadly serious (and rightfully so for events that occurred during this occupation were truly horrendous). It’s also a movie that revels in frequent unbelievably bad character decisions and acts as a showcase for one of famed British thespian Christian Bale’s worst screen performances.
In a film filled with downright atrocious acting qualities and annoying character attributes Bale comes off worse in his role as unlikeable American John Miller. John is a man that whilst eventually doing good has a journey that is just unable to engage on a level that feels realistic. It’s a thankless type of role for Bale but one senses that this was a real showy piece that failed to eventuate into anything outside of the Chinese market. The hardest thing to fathom about this picture is the fact that it should have been so ripe for a heart string pulling look at history.
Much of the films failings must be befallen to director Zhang who seems more interested in framing a shot in slo-mo or have one of his character’s stand near a multi-coloured glass mosaic for pretty lighting effects than actually focussing on the war that rages around them. It can’t be overlooked in analysis also that for a film costing north of 90 million American dollars it’s a slight event picture that rarely ventures out from the church in which the survivors of the invasion hold out in, which seems a wasted opportunity considering the stories just waiting to be told outside the churches gates.
Obviously striking a chord in its country of origin (where it’s one of China’s highest grossing films of all time), viewers (who rate it a staggeringly high 7.5 on IMDB) and some industry experts (the film was nominated for Golden Globe) Flowers of War feels like a mighty misstep of a film upon watching now. Much time has passed since Flowers of War was on our big screens and judging by its barely there reputation now it’s not hard to argue as to why many have forgotten about it entirely.
1 impromptu wig out of 5
- The Flowers of War (filmoclock.wordpress.com)
- Movie Director Admits He and His Wife Defied China’s One-Child Rule (theblaze.com)
- ‘Flower of War’ better as a novel – Zhang Lijia (chinaherald.net)