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4.4 out of 5 stars109
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 14 August 2013
Christian Bale stars as John Miller, a mortician on his way to Winchester Cathedral in the middle of war torn Nanking 1937 to bury a priest. The Japanese are taking control of the city. As a westerner Miller is allowed some leeway. When he gets to the church, he discovers they have no money to pay him. There is a group of a dozen girl students who want out. While he is trying to sort things out, a group of local prostitutes arrive seeking refuge from the war.

John Miller immediately shows us his bad side. In addition to the conflict between the Japanese and Chinese, the students don't want the working girls there. The working girls want out of Nanking too and promise John "unimaginable pleasures" from all of them for safe passage.

Eventually, Miller dons a priest cloak and goes from zero to hero as he works relentlessly to save the girls. It is a story which shows how the least of us become heroes.

Much of the movie is in English, the rest has subtitles. There is some first person narration by one of the students. I thought the oriental actors did a better job than Christian Bale who reminded me too much of Jeff Bridges. Chinese actress Ni Ni as Yu Mo gave us a good performance.

There are war scenes, killing, and a few rape scenes, although this is not a grindhouse exploitation film. No nudity, some f-bombs lobbed in Chinese. The film, as expected, has its emotional ups and downs.
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on 26 September 2015
Set during the 30s Japanese invasion of China, the film retells the true story of how a group of prostitutes and convent girls hid in a convent during the 'rape' of Nanking to escape the rampage of the Imperial Army, and how, despite their differences, one group was willing to make a terrible sacrifice for the sake of the other.

While heavy handed, 'Flowers of War' is one of the better foreign epics of recent times by comparison to duds like 'For Greater Glory' and 'There Be Dragons'. Not just because of production values and scope to rival any Hollywood production, the battles being exceptionally bloody, grimey and tense while the city genuinely looks like war torn ruins, but in a fairly strong cast with a genuine sense of camaraderie. Despite being top billed, the show stealing is done not by a grizzled, weasely Bale as a mortician turned priest who acts as the women's guardian, though he is still solid, but by the ragtag group of prostitutes who grow a heart and become almost big sisters to the sheltered convent girls. You get your mix of the loveable goofballs, the stuck up snobs, the needy ones and then the sultry, determined leader of the group (played by Ni Ni) but none ever feel like obnoxious caricatures and the actresses make them very endearing.

Also, the film is not exceptionally focused on religion despite the setting, thus allowing us more to focus on human nature and individual willpower as opposed to some hamfisted 'divinity' that would typically crop up in this sort of story. However, strength of characterisation is not universal; the Japanese are cartoonish monsters, most of their dialogue composed of animalistic snarls and grunts, there is rather redundant narration from a future version of one of the girls that never amounts to much, and to say the film is subtle in its symbolism is a gross understatement. However, I still have to give 'Flowers' props for not being a bunch of pompous ballyhoo, and actually having some genuine merits to make it a capably emotional journey, if a sometimes ungraceful one.
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First let me get my gripes out of the way: my copy is marketed by Revolver Entertainment and is 136 minutes long,not 146 minutes as advertised on Amazon's product description.
The dvd jacket states subtitles are in English:yes there are English subtitles but ONLY to cover the dialogue that is in Chinese/Mandarin and/or Japanese, NOT for the English spoken for much of the film.As much as I admire the Chinese actors for their ability to speak in English I found it difficult to follow at times.It was a bit Benny Hill-esque to my ear.

The film itself is magnificent.I have seen City of Life & Death [DVD] and City Of War: The Story of John Rabe [DVD] which are extremely harrowing,with little respite from depicting the horrors of the occupation of Nanking by the Japanese.

This film manages to show some humour and compassion as well as the extradordinary horrors experienced by the Chinese.

As such it can draw a much wider audience to see this terrible event in 20th century history.Even my wife was impressed with the production watching with me.

I've always wondered how and why the Japanese have gotten away with the atrocities committed during this pre-WW2 battle and occupation; perhaps the treatment of our own prisoners of war during the larger war overshadowed Nanking's massacre.The scale of the rapes and killings have never matched the supposed justice meted out after the war against the little men behind the sun.
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There's a few films around now about the Nanking Massacre (City of Life and Death being a standout) and it seems each is more brutal than the last. The Flowers of War is another addition to the list and its a very good albeit graphic and violent one.

Christian Bale is excellent as John Miller, a mortician arriving in Nanking in 1937 in the very heart of the Japanese invasion. While Japanese troops are rampaging through the streets taking no prisoners, Miller ends up taking refuge in a church along with a group of young convent girls and a troop of fleeing prostitutes. This bizarre group of survivors must first find a way to coexist and then possibly attempt to flee the city.

The city itself is brilliantly realised character, the death and destruction all around is shown in vivid detail. The film certainly doesn't shy away from showing the brutality of the invasion in a few scattered action scenes. The acting is almost universally very good, Bale doesn't carry the weight alone. Overall, an interesting and dramatic chronicle of a very dark period in history which has just about enough heart and hope.
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on 14 December 2013
Its a touching movie,really underrated,watch it before judging!A great story,thrilling performances and a beautiful cinematography!Highly recommendable,you should watch of the most incredible stories ever told!
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on 9 August 2015
This review is just to inform that this bluray release (Kaleidoscope) is in the correct aspect ratio 2.40/1 compared to the previous releases cropped picture. PQ is very good and there's 2 audio tracks (5.1 DTS HD & 2.0 LPCM) both English with Mandarin. There are no extras on this release. But at least you get to see the film the way the director intended.
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on 17 October 2015
Nanking 1937 and the Japanese are taking over the city with a ferocity that leaves very little of the city and people to tell the tale. Told from the view point of a young student at the Catholic Church school who watches the priest be killed? and has to struggle to survive with the help of an American expat Mortician ( Christian Bale) and a group of ladies of leisure who seek sanctuary in the church. The tale is not one for the feint hearted and selected scenes of violence etc are graphic and leave little to the imagination. Apart from Mr Bale the cast were Asian and subtitles were provided when they spoke in their native tongue. The pity was we did not have sub titles for Mr Bale at the start of the film who was very hard to understand. Interesting film but only one for those who have an interest in the subject matter!
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Flowers of War isn't exactly an easy watch. It tells the story of a group of convent girls trapped in a Catholic Church and held hostage by the Japanese during the Nanking massacre of 1937. Although it makes for uncomfortable viewing at times, ultimately it is a very rewarding watch.

Based on a true story it's a story of human resilience, sacrifice, ingenuity and ultimately triumph. The horrors of war and impact on the civilian population as Japan seize the Chinese capital are frankly addressed and brutally depicted; as are the strengths and weaknesses of the human spirit, along with extreme examples of it at its best and it's most horrific.

Although I've given this 4 stars it is, in a lot of ways, a 5 star film. Although the war ravaged scenery isn't exactly beautiful in the conventional sense, it is stunning to see on screen. And with Bale cast in the central role there is of course plenty of superb acting throughout.

The rest of the cast don't quite live up to the same standard as Christian, but you can't help but become emotionally involved in their story and the predicament they find themselves in all the same - this is one of those stories, so intense is its nature, it crosses cultural boundaries and resonates on some deeper level of humanity.

Overall it's a very good film. I don't want to use the world enjoyable, as somehow that doesn't seem right given its contents and subject matter, but as the mixed cast play out the tale of events, it's easy to see why they're events that have gone down in Chinese folklore.

The Bluray, as a whole is very good - the picture and sound are perfect (although apparently in the wrong picture ratio, but I didn't notice this and only found out reading some reviews here) and there are a few interesting extras, such as a very revealing interview with Christian Bale which give you a small insight into some of the ways this man works to pull of off his incredible performances.
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on 3 August 2012
Loved this film! It's absolutely epic in scale and features some of the most incredible actions and war sequences I've ever seen. Christian Bale is so cool in this film, i couldn't recommend it highly enough. If you love huge war films like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down - this is totally for you!
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on 3 November 2014
I am not aware of the history and story behind this film, so would not be able to say how accurate a description it is of the events that happened. However as a film, it is brilliantly told and acted. The acting is tremendous and the action scenes so realistic, without glorifying the violence. There are moments of humour, lots of sadness and emotion, and at times really uplifting. The film has some subtitles, but if this puts you off, don't let it as most of the film is in English dialogue. At times, I was on the edge of my seat as the tension got unbearable. A must watch.
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