"Learned a new word today. Atom bomb. It was like the God taking a photograph"
First film suggestion for the day is a not-quite so relative WWII film by Steven Spielberg. Unlike his masterpiece 'Schidler's List', Spielberg begun his WWII fascination earlier on in his career. One of the films that drew critical acclaim to the magnitude of the WWII devastation was 'The Empire of the Sun'.
The Empire of the Sun was an adapted novel made into scrip by acclaimed playwright and script-writer Tom Stoppard ('Shakespeare in Love'). What really is fascinating in the script was the idea of given the unusual circumstances that the protagonist had to face during times of total destitute.
What separates this film from any other WWII that Spielberg directed was the spectacular choice of his protagonist, who is none other than Christian Bale. Bale took on the role when he was just 12 years old, thus marking this as the perfect beginning for an actor of his age to get distinguished. But this is not only what really made Bale stand out. His remarkable on-screen performance leaves the audience gushing for what that boy feels, for everything, every single emotional journey he goes through and it's like you can feel his frustration, his anger, his enthusiasm, his fears, his hopes...He truly gives in my opinion a virtuoso-performance.
It would be an underestimation to say that Spielberg's direction is as always moving. Cinematographer Allen Daviau does a superb job in his expedition of transfering us through the streets of Shanghai into the confinement camp in China. The waste-lands and the beautiful dialogue scenes between the boy-actor Bale and the always superb actor-heavy-weight John Malcovich, prove to be even bigger than the screen, thus giving memorable performances.
In summary the story is about a young boy, "James Graham, whose privileged life is upturned by the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, December 8, 1941. Separated from his parents, he is eventually captured, and taken to Soo Chow confinement camp, next to a captured Chinese airfield. Amidst the sickness and food shortages in the camp, Jim attempts to reconstruct his former life, all the while bringing spirit and dignity to those around him." (quote being taken from www.imdb.com).
Bale truly overwhelmes Spielberg's screen. This is not a world war II film, but a film of a young boy, who lost his family, his way, and is thrown into this unholy place of killings and survival. First time I saw this film was when I was 19 years old, quite old in my opinion. And yet through the vibrant and exhuberant performance that Bale gave, my heart went out to the longing for idealism and freedom that the protagonist felt.
This is probably the underrated WWII film of Spielberg, who stocked up on the DVD shelves once 'Schidler's List' made its appearance. But I believe that is an equal contender of the presentation of the horrific events that WWII brought to humanity and the courage that many unknown souls gathered up for their survival.
It's quite a serious film, I admit and many will find it a bit of unsual of Spielberg, since he does love his WWII war scenes with machine guns and that sort. However, this film is quite the opposite. It focusses more on the plot and the characters rather than the killing.
Also worthy cameos to mention by the always exceptional Miranda Richardson and the then not-so-known Ben Stiller. Trivia suggests that Stiller got his idea for 'Tropical Thunder' whilst on location for this film. Then again who wouldn't be inspired in making such a film, right?
It is fairly easy to get hold of this film on DVD. I haven't as yet read the book, but I hear is equally exceptional and is on my to-read-list. But if you are in the mood for a good WWII flick that doesn't just show fight scenes, this is your gem to look for!
Hope you enjoy it everyone!
Empire of the Sun (1987)