The Flowers of War
The Flowers of War
(Yimou Zhang, 2011)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: A blistering mix of style and heart, the odd pairing of 'Hero' director Yimou Zhang and star Christian Bale deliver a brilliant (if slightly too long) war drama.
Yimou Zhang is a filmmaker whose compositions linger in memory long after the end credits roll. This is the man who directed 'Raise the Red Lantern', 'To Live', 'The Road Home' and crossover hits such as 'Hero', 'Curse of the Golden Flower' and 'House of Flying Daggers'. He makes modest budgets look huge. It's somewhat strange that a film which boasts of having a budget bigger than 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Schindler's List' combined, comes off as his least elegant with his gliding camera moves replaced with a lot of cheap-looking hand held and the majority of film bound to one location. Still, once you get into its grove, it captures you.
Christian Bale plays a mortician who makes it through a collection of Japanese troops to an isolated church during the infamous rape of Nanking in 1937. He then poses as a priest in order to save the abandoned children from the church's school as well as a group of prostitutes who invite themselves in. Bale's character John Miller is a drunk, forever running away from problems. savvy prostitute Yu Mo (excellent newcomer Ni Ni) helps him find his focus as the world around them threatens to cave in.
A great deal of the action takes place in the church and director Zhang does a wonderful job conveying such a vivid sense of space. When he takes beauty that only he can create and ruins it deliberately, he creates a sense of tragedy that complements the film excellently.
With over a two dozen characters to attend to, Zhang has a challenge to make us care but with Bale in fine form as the man in the middle, 'The Flowers of War' blossoms. He's a world away from his other film this year, 'The Dark Knight Rises', with a performance that recalls a weird blend of his stellar work in 'The Fighter' and his breakout 'Empire of the Sun'.
Through this unlikely collaboration, 'The Flowers of War' is an international success.
Check out the trailer and a wealth of stills from its theatrical run HERE at Cinemas Online.
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