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4.6 out of 5 stars171
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 7 November 2012
Bathed in nostalgia, and filled with sadness for the irrevocability of the past, for "a strange, inconceivable England" as Ballard says in his novel Empire of the Sun (New Windmills) (ch. 2) - albeit an England surreally transposed to the far east - Spielberg perfectly captures the spirit of the book with his gorgeous cinematography and a superb soundtrack courtesy of John Williams, including the hauntingly beautiful Suo Gan - a song which I don't think has ever been sung more beautifully (the soloist in this performance was James Rainbird). Complemented by a stellar cast, Christian Bale deserves a great deal of credit for his outstanding performance as Jim.

Blu-ray releases are often a case of hit-and-miss, but I'm glad to say that this blu-ray is excellent. Fans of the film will find that the cinematography is *enormously* enhanced by its being presented in glorious HD - the pin-sharp picture is just a complete joy to watch from beginning to end.


Making-of documentary, 'The China Odyssey'
Theatrical trailer
(Both these were formerly available on DVD. Neither are in HD.)

The film can be listened to in its original (English language) soundtrack, or dubbed into French, German, Italian, Spanish (both Castilian and Latin), and Portuguese.

Optional subtitles:
English, French, German, Italian, Spanish (again, both kinds), Portuguese, Dutch, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Chinese.

Comparison with US release:
The US release of this movie: Empire of the Sun [Blu-ray] [1987] [US Import] - which is multi-region, so can be viewed on any UK blu-ray player - is a special digibook version with a second disc. The second disc is a documentary about Warner Bros' WWII propaganda department, entitled "Warner at War". This 2008 documentary (which is narrated by Spielberg, and lasts about three-quarters of an hour) has really nothing to do with the movie (the Intro to the documentary can be viewed on YouTube). But the digibook itself is very nice. It has some well chosen photos from the movie and is quite a handsome product. However, at the time of writing, it does cost considerably more than the UK release. So if you're not much bothered with the packaging and are only interested in the disc content, then I'd probably go with the UK release since it is significantly cheaper, and the bonus feature on the second disc of the US release is not really an "extra" related to this movie.
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on 11 November 2006
As the previous reviewer has said this is a poweful, cinematic masterpiece. From the moment that Jim (Christian Bale) is separated from his parents we follow his journey of survival in a Japanese POW camp. I agree with the previous reviewer that the slow motion sequence with the bomber is powerful and moving but there are several other scenes which are equally moving. There is a moment when Jim saves the doctor (Nigel Havers) from a beating by bowing to his Japanese captor. Also, when Jim salutes the Japanese pilots and sings as they go off to fight. The scene in which Jim is convinced that a bright light is the passing of his friend but is actually the first atom bombs is masterful as well. However, for me the most memorable scene is the final one which I can't mention as it would spoil the story. This is a weepie movie but beautiful and Christian Bale is superb and brings out a wonderful array of emotions far beyond what you'd expect in someone so young.
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on 22 February 2012
I have watched this WWII portrayal several times and each time I learn something new of the horrors of war and the specifc adventure a young british boy experiences as he struggles then fights tooth and nail to survive the brutal stark indignity and horrors of captivity and basic starvation during japenese led invasion and capture.
A heart breaking story with loads of adventures along the way. The boy grows from pampered sheltered middle class "plenty"- to abject suffering and lack.
A happy ending I am pleased to say of a "comming of age" young boy who gets seperated from his mother during the round up for the concentration camps during WWII. I shan't tell you anymore,just to say: "Go AND Buy IT. You wont be disapointed.
A young Christopher bale ('Batman') makes his debut here and impressive it is as he acts his heart out. Sings hauntingly pure, too. Probably one of his finest performnances. Very watchable. Full of haunting brutality. Imaginative honest sensitive scenes and massive direction. At times over the top. At other times very understated...cleverly done.
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on 3 November 2006
An outstanding film based around the life of young Jim (Christian Bale in one of his first films), the son of a couple of aristocatic ex-pats living in shanghai around the time of the Japanese invasion of China in 1939. The movie is a masterpiece of cinematic set pieces and excellent casting including a brilliant John Malkovich as Jim's 'tutor' through his internment by the Japanese and a suprisingly good offering by Nigel Havers as the camps doctor.

This film has one of THE best scenes in cinematic history as far as I'm concerned, involving Jim (Bale) standing atop of a burned out building as a P51 Mustang fighter plane fly's by him so close that you clearly see the pilot smiling and waving at him. It is one of the finest slow motion sequences I have ever seen and I challenge anyone not to be moved by it.

Dont' even think about it - just buy the DVD today, you won't be disapointed.
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on 23 March 2006
An amazing tale of the child's view of war. One of my favourite books and easily my favourite film. I recommend this to anyone with heart, consideration and understanding of the human cost of battle
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on 5 March 2006
This is a very good adaptation of a very good novel. Speilberg is a great film maker but, in my opinion, not always the best storyteller. Fortunately here we have very true reading of J.G.Ballard's work: far better than his re-working of Schindler's Ark into Schindler's List. Definately worth watching.
If you do enjoy this, I would also recommend you watch the Japanes anime "Grave of the Firlies", which is an even more
powerful examination of the impact of war on children.
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on 25 February 2015
This is Oliver Twist transplanted to Shanghai during the Japanese expansion into China and the Far East which culminated in Nagasaki and Hiroshima via Pearl Harbour. A boy is separated from his parents during the stampede to escape Japanese imperial forces and is taken up by two Americans in search of loot. The hypothesis is that once hungry, survival dictates that people discard loyalty to their socio- economic group, in this case very well to do colonials living in palatial houses served by local people. The break between the boy and his parents takes place following a fancy dress party, emphasising the make believe nature of the privileged existence of the Europeans in China. Christian Bale as the enterprising young man points out the assets to be acquired by his American handlers in the millionaire's row he has recently left for the open road, but his partners in crime find the Japanese in residence instead. The next stop is an internment camp where Bale salutes Japanese airmen, saves the camp doctor (Nigel Havers) by making abasement to a Japanese guard who attacks Havers with a bamboo rod and sings in salute of kamikaze pilots as the tide of conflict turns against Japan. When the Americans fly into the camp on board their Mustangs, he cheers them. His emotions are torn by admiration for aviators on both sides and his friendship for a Japanese boy killed tragically by the American wheeler dealers in search of further loot. It is a tale of courage and survival which would be understood best by those who have experienced such events. As a visual page turner with some surreal moments, like the sudden discovery of a deserted enclosure full of fabulous antiques, it represents excellent value.
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on 7 July 2002
i must admit, im a bit of a movie buff. Ive seen hundreds of movies and plenty of war movies at that. I must also admit that im a real fan of steven spielberg and films such as "jaws, close encounters, e.t, indiana jones, the minority report" but I have to say Empire of the sun is probably my favourite of them all.
Its a brilliant film in every way, its thoughtful, moving, and wonderfully performed. Bale gives a superb performance and proves that kids can actually act in films. Some scenes really stand out as stunning such as the bombing of the prison camp and the scenes between Bale and the japanese pilot.
This film ranks as one of my very favourites, because its only one of two films (shawshank redemption being the other) that brings me close to tears every time i watch it, and im a grown man!!!! hehe. Not to be missed. *****
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Despite warnings many British citizens had stayed put in 'Shanghai'
believing international law would protect them from the 'Japanese'
forces that lay in wait outside the city.
young 'Jim Graham's family were among them, when the situation becomes
critical his family try to flee to safety during which time young 'Jim'
becomes separated from his parents.
now in 'Shanghai' alone 'Jim's story of inspiring determination and
will for survival in the wake of adversity begins.
Many 'Brits' along with some 'Americans' have been herded together in
a Japanese prison camp.
the harsh reality's of wartime within occupied 'China' is what young
'Jim' has to come to terms with, learning to scrounge and deal to
survive the harsh conditions.
even given his circumstances his love and interest in military aircraft
remains in tact.
'Steven Spielberg' has had a happy knack of bringing authentic war-dramas
to our screens along with many, many entertaining gems such as 'E.T' and
I have revisited several classics in recent times, this well portrayed,
often graphic and intense war-time drama which also and often moving
scenes, among them........I would certainly class this as a 'Classic'
well worth a visit or indeed a re-visit as I have done.
( the up-grade in picture quality on this format is really pretty good )
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on 28 January 2001
one of my prized possessions in my video collection, empire of the sun is a moving film following the traumatic journey of Jim,a boy who loses his parents during world war two in Asia. This an epic in every sense of the word, great soundtrack great cinematography and superb acting. Watch out for a young Christian Bale as Jim in a stunningly mature performance....the ending will move you to tears.
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