John Miller (Christian Bale) is a mortician
braving the war torn streets of Nanjing
(or Nanking), China in 1937 as the
Chinese are losing to the Japanese invasion. He is here to bury an American
priest who killed by a bomb inside the courtyard of a cathedral. He is
trapped within the cathedral with shell-chocked schoolchildren and a dozen hookers from a Chinese brothel while the Japanese
guard the outside (during the 1937 rape of Nanking by Japan). He takes the guise of a priest and has to decide whether to help everyone escape.
Director Zhang Yimou (aka director Zhang)
goes for broke with this film. As the behind-the-scenes material shows,
he wanted the details to be perfect while I think they should have focused on the story a little bit more while trying to
cater to East and West audiences at the same time with it English and Chinese dialogue.
Except for Bale, many of the characters in the church are played by unknowns
they did a casting call for. Some of the unknowns are impressive and the
one playing Yu Mo has great chemistry with Bale. The story is thin at times and runs into cliché territory. The Japanese
come off as one dimensional despite the script's attempts to bring a little chaarcter development to the honorable Japanese
commander. Despite those flaws, THE FLOWERS OF WAR mostly works. Christian Bale is good with the material he was provided, but sometimes the movie plays
it too safe after having a great set-up. It is worth watching one
time. I just don’t think it was Oscar worthy material.
There is an extensive and well-produced
five part making-of documentary spilt into individual featurettes with no Play All option.
The 92 minutes of informative behind-the-scenes material dives deep in how Zhang wants to make it perfect, his connection
with Christian Bale (they were on the same page despite the language barrier), and the experiences the new child actresses
went through while making the film during the course of six months.
THE BIRTH OF THE FLOWERS OF WAR- Look at all of the planning that went into crafting the story and building part of war torn Nanjing
for the movie
MEETING CHRISTIAN BALE- it takes a few minutes, but the featurette does present a portrait of how Christain Bale and director
Zhang were in sync and how nice Bale was to everyone.
THE NEWBORN STARS- a look at the inexperienced actors cast for the film and the experiences they went through as they
HARD TIME DURING WAR- The problems experienced by Zhang and crew as they try to get the wartime action sequences perfect, but
delays like explosives going off too early, broken down tanks, and jammed weapons lead to delays.
PERFECTION OF LIGHT AND COLOR- The director
makes the art production people agonize over getting a glass window right down to the color and holes.
FINAL ANALYSIS: THE FLOWERS OF WAR is worth watching once, but it isn’t the best film from Zhang. The behind-the-scenes featurettes show how much detail they went to get the movie and how Zhang wanted
the movie to be perfect.
This review is (c)7-13-2012 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org