The Flowers of War

July 7, 2012 4 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

John Miller (Christian Bale) is an American mortician in Nanjing, a war torn, demolished city filled with constant dangers. He is to assist with the burial services of a local priest, but once at the cathedral, the situation is not as expected. As the battles clash outside, the cathedral is abandoned, save a small group of children. Out of self preservation more than empathy, Miller remains in the cathedral, putting the soft beds, food, and wine to good use. He soon allows a band of courtesans to take shelter there as well, though again more to further his own aims. As time passes, Miller begins to understand the brutal nature of the situation outside, which sparks some changes in his outlook. While he started out at the cathedral just to save his own skin, he now feels compelled to protect those around him. But as soldiers advance upon the location and tensions rise between those inside, can Miller somehow keep his new charges safe?

I have to be honest, The Flowers of War plays more like melodramatic propaganda than a historical period piece. The film doesn’t just take sides in the real life conflict, it paints the Japanese as human monsters and the Chinese as selfless heroes. The nations still disagree about what happened in Nanjing, but in any case, I doubt it was as one sided as the film claims. But the movie was made in China, so the bias is not all that unexpected. When taken simply as a melodrama, The Flowers of War is solid and is one of the more remarkable Chinese film productions I’ve seen. The dynamics at work within those inside the cathedral really work well, which is a credit to the writing, to be sure. Christian Bale is fine in his role, but those around him seem to steal the show at times, especially the younger performers. So while I dislike how slanted the film is about real life events, The Flowers of War is still a good movie and offers fine dramatic entertainment.

Video: How does it look?

The Flowers of War is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. I found this to be a solid visual effort, though of course not on the same level as the high definition version. The detail is above average for a standard release, with good depth and no overly soft scenes to mention. The colors are natural, though slightly muted at times, while black levels are crisp and consistent. In the end, a more than capable visual presentation.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack handles the needs of the film well, whether that entails gunfight battles or quiet, reserved moments inside the cathedral. Most of the film is rather low key in terms of audio, with crystal clear dialogue and subtle, but effective background atmosphere. But when the moment calls for a dash of power, this mix provides it. So quite a good soundtrack and one that is better than I anticipated. This disc also includes English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes five promotional featurettes

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