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The Flowers of War (2011)



Average Rating: 4.8/10
Critic Reviews: 16
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 14

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 6,260

My Rating

Movie Info

In 1937, Nanking stands at the forefront of a war between China and Japan. As the invading Japanese Imperial Army overruns China's capital city, desperate civilians seek refuge behind the nominally protective walls of a western cathedral. Here, John Miller (Christian Bale), an American trapped amidst the chaos of battle and the ensuing occupation takes shelter, joined by a group of innocent schoolgirls and thirteen courtesans, equally determined to escape the horrors taking place outside the


Drama, Art House & International, Special Interest

Liu Heng, Yan Geling

Jul 10, 2012


Wrekin Hill Entertainment - Official Site External Icon

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Latest News on The Flowers of War

December 22, 2011:
The Humble Beginnings of Christian Bale
Before he was a star, he was a fast-footed pitchman for Pac-Man Cereal.
December 16, 2011:
Christian Bale Involved in Skirmish with Chinese Security Guards
You totally read that right.


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All Critics (56) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (33) | DVD (2)

Zhang's flamboyant camera choreography and diva-ish flounces of melodrama are vivid but misplaced.

July 31, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
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"The Flowers of War" seems like a pretty good film until you begin to think about it.

March 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic | Comments (3)
Arizona Republic
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An unsettling mixture of spectacular brutality and sentimentality that might make even Steven Spielberg blush.

February 24, 2012 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
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The director's grip on the drama is often weakened by his penchant for creating spectacles.

February 23, 2012 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
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All Zhang's splendor does is foster cognitive dissonance in an audience.

January 19, 2012 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
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A strange hybrid of "City of Life and Death" and "Father Goose" that nevertheless, in the hands of Zhang Yimou, musters a few striking moments.

January 19, 2012 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The filming techniques cross Saving Private Ryan with Zimou's own Hero and other dynastic, martial arts-driven Chinese epics.

September 12, 2012 Full Review Source: Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post

It contributes nothing of value to an understanding of these events.

August 5, 2012 Full Review Source: Observer [UK] | Comments (3)
Observer [UK]

It can look tremendous, even if Zhao Xiaoding's hyper-stylised '90-retro cinematography sits uneasily beside relentless bloodshed and sexual violations.

August 3, 2012 Full Review Source: Irish Times
Irish Times

Bale is forthright and emotional in the role, and with a hint of boyish vulnerability, even reminds us of his 13-year-old self in Spielberg's Empire of the Sun.

August 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Guardian

Maudlin make-believe in which a molecule of fact has been dropped like vermouth into a martini ...

August 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Zhang gives his fondness for chaste melodrama and shimmering colours full rein: it's a style that suits his courtly martial arts films such as Hero, but this material would have benefited from a more Spielbergian, or perhaps David Lean-ian, approach.

August 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

While absorbing and never dull you can't help feeling the horrific subject matter deserved rather more subtle handling.

August 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Express | Comment (1)
Daily Express

The title alludes to a precious beauty that grows during times of war, but this is just taking things way too far. The colour here is way off.

August 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

Impressively directed and beautifully shot, this is a compelling, superbly acted drama that exerts a powerful emotional grip, though it's impossible not to suspect that certain liberties have been taken with the actual events.

August 1, 2012 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

It is is impossible not to be moved. Bales sometimes overeggs his Western saviour yet is watchable throughout, imbuing Miller with a nobility that is only explained in the final reel.

August 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

As you'd expect, it's beautiful, emotional and exciting, if florid in style. Bale, beauties and English dialogue widen Yimou's appeal.

July 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Um filme que peca ao ouvir a expressão "espetáculo de crueldade" e conferir maior peso à primeira palavra do que à segunda.

May 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

Veering from the sensational to the maudlin, this is a compromised epic that panders to the Chinese audience.

March 23, 2012 Full Review Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

...the movie's less-than-engrossing atmosphere [is] compounded by its stagy and distressingly uneventful midsection...

February 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Not only huge and unwieldy, but seemingly unsure of what it wants to do/say/prove.

February 24, 2012 Full Review Source: Jam! Movies
Jam! Movies

It gives even as fine an actor as Bale little chance to shine among the bullets, bombs and terrified women.

February 15, 2012 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Audience Reviews for The Flowers of War

Director Yimou Zhang once was quoted as saying; "For thousands of years, there's been a tradition of teaching us in China to think in terms of the collective experience, so we are rarely able to act in accordance with personal desires or emotions. Now young people, especially under Western influences, have become much more interested in themselves and their own values". This answers and dissolves my biggest problem that I had with this film and that was the actions of its characters. That said, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the film as a whole. As you can clearly tell from the title of the film, this is an example of the good, the opposite of the atrocities of war that can and do happen. The sacrifices people make for each other, the beauty in humanity in contrast with the very worst of humanity, whenever there is a horrible moment in history there is also a good story to come out of it. Unfortunately, this story has been manipulated. The invasion of Nanking where 300,000 people were massacred and 20,000 women were raped is not the typical war story you might have heard from your Grandad. This is the very worst of war, if you are going to tell the story you have to be accurate without being gratuitous or disrespectful to those who were there and unfortunately this is where the film fails for me. Yimou Zhang is a visual master but he makes beautiful that that should remain ugly. Christian bale puts in a great performance but the nascent conscience of the white 'big nose' Westerner is surely the wrong story to tell in the circumstances. Vivid and beautiful but woefully misplaced, I'll be honest and say it is an entertaining film but it is wrong.
July 4, 2014

Super Reviewer

A glimpse of WWII in China through one fallen city, Nanking.

Great Film! It's a great movie, very touching. The background is Nanking Massacre, at that cruel and desperate history moment, the director finds a special perspective to show us goodness, hope, sacrifice and humanity. Although I've seen so many war movies before, this one is different. There is no positive way to spin what was a shameful event in Japan's history, and for what it's worth I think that Zhang Yimou delineates well the soldiers occasional insecurity, homesickness, and humanisation brought on by paranoia and pressure from above. A movie well-worth watching, and which I would like to watch for a second time to re- establish which moment are intentionally humorous, which moments are unintentionally humorous, and which moments are tragic. Kudos for Zhang Yimou for tackling such a visited topic (That of the Nanjing massacre) which a freshness, and even more kudos to Christian Bale for stepping up to the plate and giving in a great performance.

In 1937 China, during the second Sino-Japanese war, a mortician, John (Christian Bale) arrives at a Catholic church in Nanjing to prepare a priest for burial. Upon arrival he finds himself the lone adult among a group of convent girl students and prostitutes from a nearby brothel. When he finds himself in the unwanted position of protector of both groups from the horrors of the invading Japanese army, he discovers the meaning of sacrifice and honor.
June 27, 2014
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

With astonishing visuals and an impeccable sound design, this compelling war film constitutes though a paradox of gorgeous ugliness, centered on a most hideous massacre of History whose re-creation needed no stylistic ornaments or artificial revelations.
February 19, 2014

Super Reviewer

Chinese historical drama war film is definitely worth seeing with British actor Christian Bale. Emotionally and powerful. Highly recommended.
The story is about how a dozen of prostitutes saved girl students from uncivilized Japanese soldiers during the Nanjing (Nanking) massacre period, set in 1937.
The director Yimou Zhang told a powerful, touching and beautiful story, while delivering stunning visual effects as always. All actors from different countries did an amazing job in making so many strong characters in 3 languages, not just the American 'priest', but also those prostitutes, the boy George, all the children, Japanese officers, and the Chinese 'traitor'.
Bale made an excellent performance in this Chinese film and a Chinese leading actress, Ni Ni, is new face and became a new "Mou girl" like Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi.
February 10, 2013
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • The Flowers of War (Jin ling shi san chai) (DE)
  • The Flowers of War (Jin ling shi san chai) (UK)
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