Rental Pick: The Flowers of War (2011)



Ruth’s note: Thanks to FC’s contributor Cecilia Rusli for this review. This film is now available on DVD/Blu-ray. View more information on the production of this movie as well as the trailer.



It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen a Chinese movie at the cinema as I am getting less interested to see their martial arts movies all over again. When The Flowers of War played at the local cinemas in Indonesia, I heard good reviews about it and yes the fact that Christian Bale is one of the cast pretty much made me curious. This film tells the story of an American, John Miller (Christian Bale) who has to stay with school girls and prostitutes during attack and rape by Japanese army at Nanking in 1937.
The film with a combination of war, Asian army, and an American leading role that I remember pretty strong is The Last Samurai where I found the Japanese Ken Watanabe did a very good job with Tom Cruise. Now at The Flowers of War, Christian Bale succeeded in building a good emotion with the Chinese cast which consist of prostitutes and the students he met at the church. The conflict happens from the beginning of the film created a strong bond between the characters on the movie.
Watching The Flowers of War leaves me with mixed up emotions. I laughed at some of the hilarious scenes, and also weep a couple of times at the heartbreaking scenes. Director Zhang Yimou created these sadistic and heartless Japanese army very well that it was painful to see. Brutal and bloody actions have officially made this film not recommended for kids. Regardless of some of the silly and cheesy drama scenes, all that I felt is this emotional built up that starts from the very beginning all the way until the end of the movie as it’s wrapped beautifully. It’s not just strong at the dramatic part, I also enjoyed the war tactics with explosions and shotguns at the beginning of the movie.

Christian Bale managed to give the audience different perspective and emotions on his character throughout the film. The script surely supports it. Moreover, Bale shows that he could be paired perfectly with the Chinese actress Ni Ni for the romantic scenes and also with Tianyuan Huang for some hilarious conversations.

Paul Schneider who plays the role as John’s friend Terry did not really have much screen time in the movie. The character is plainly ordinary and he is just supporting Miller’s character as an American.

Personally I feel that The Flowers of War is worthy to be selected as China’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards 2012. It is a pretty brave film as it contains some controversies between Japanese, Chinese, and American but managed to bring a strong dramatic movie for the audience. Don’t watch it when you’re in a gloomy mood though, as this film will make you even more depressed.
– review by Cecilia Rusli
3 out of 5 reels


Has any of you seen this film? What do you think?