The Flowers Of War (2011)
On December 13th, 1937, amidst the heavy fog, a handful of frantic civilians and foreigners try to escape the Nanking invasion by the Japanese. Hired to bury a Catholic priest, John, a greedy American mortician (Christian Bale) crossing the battlefield, teams up with a young pair of locals to help him get to his destination. Luckily for him, the girls are part of a group of students residing at Winchester Cathedral, the convent for young girls that he was trying to find.
With the city under fire, the convent soon becomes holy ground for a group of discourteous and obnoxious prostitutes, led by the sultry Mo (Ni Ni), to the delight of our less than honourable American. But John’s charm has little to no effect when it comes to women like these. Feeling snubbed one night, after a few bottles of wine, he decides to give the old cleric’s clothes a go.
The next day, as luck would have it, Japanese troops barge in on the safe grounds forcing John’s hand. Meanwhile, a rag-tag group of soldiers captained by Major Li (Dawei Tong), a fierce sniper and loyal officer hellbent on saving the lives of as many people as possible, makes it their mission to keep Winchester Cathedral safe from the Japanese hordes.
“Jin Ling Shi San Chai” features a truly wonderful ensemble. Most notable are the performances by Christian Bale and Ni Ni but one shouldn’t forget the enormous contributions made by the rest of the cast including: Shu (Xinyi Zhang), a young girl who promised her classmates her father would come back to rescue them all; her father, Mr. Meng (Kefan Cao); the dead priest’s young apprentice George (Tianyuan Huang) and the ruthless man in charge of “preserving” Winchester Cathedral, Colonel Hasegawa (Atsuro Watabe).
There are some truly intense moments that may leave you feeling queasy as you progress through the story. You will see the ugly side of war in “The Flowers Of War”. Soldiers that routinely commit terrible and monstrous acts and seem to do so with total impunity, gleefully murdering and raping anyone unlucky enough to cross their paths. Streets littered with dead bodies and so on. Not a movie for the faint-hearted.
If you’re anything like me, when you hear that this is the new Zhang Yimou film you’ll be rushing out to see it. And clocking in at a whopping 2 hours and 20 minutes you’re probably thinking: “It better be damn good…”. The first part of the movie looks like something out of “Saving Private Ryan”. Then the movie begins to take shape and it reminded me a bit of “Lust, Caution”, which I think is a very good thing. The message is a honourable one: Whoever and wherever you are, whatever you may have done in the past, it’s never too late to do the right thing even at the price of your own skin. Highly recommended.
Oh and don’t worry, even though the central location for the movie is a Catholic church religion as a whole is not a predominant theme in “The Flowers Of War”. Thank God.
The Flowers Of War (2011),