The Flowers of War


The Flowers of War

Critics Consensus

Zhang Yimou's stylistic flair is in full bloom during The Flowers of War, but his colorful treatment of a historical genocide ultimately does a disservice to the horrifying events' inherent drama.



Total Count: 58


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,750
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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 church walls. Struggling to survive the violence and persecution wrought by the Japanese army, it is an act of heroism which eventually leads the seemingly disparate group to fight back, risking their lives for the sake of everyone. -- (C) Wrekin Hill

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Christian Bale
as John Miller
Shigeo Kobayashi
as Lieutenant Kato
Dawei Tong
as Major Li
Cao Kefan
as Mr. Meng

Critic Reviews for The Flowers of War

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (20)

Audience Reviews for The Flowers of War

  • Jun 27, 2014
    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.
    Manu G Super Reviewer
  • Aug 31, 2013
    Flowers of War represents some of the worst tendencies of Hollywood films, with the notable exception being that it's a Chinese film, with an international bent. The film centers on the fall of Nanking, when the Japanese invasion of China lead to a bloody slaughter of many civilians, and a complete devastation of the city. In Flowers of War, a group of prostitutes and school girls find themselves under the protection of a wayward Westerner, played by Christian Bale. Flowers of War definitely has the look and feel of a good film. The casting of Christian Bale gives a notable weight to the film, who excels at his part. His emotions are conveyed authentically, and he gives his character a personality and depth the rest of the cast comes nowhere close to matching. The cinematography is well done, with the overall world building of 37' Nanking looking especially authentic. The problem starts with the direction by Yimou Zhang. He is far too indulgent for his own good, adding needless stylistic flourishes to every scene. The action, instead of feeling kinetic, feels disjointed and strangely distant from the overall narrative. The constant slowing of the frames, the never-ending shifting of the camera, the angles, everything serves as a distraction. Far from feeling inventive, it feels gimmicky, cheap, and notably out of place. The script also has a number of problems. The Japanese are not portrayed with any nuance, a source of controversy in the wake of the film's release, with the entire conflict being framed in the most simplistic of terms. We are reminded, through a terrible narration, of how great certain characters are, and how bad others are. The dialogue often leaves a lot to be desired, giving us a number of shrieking characters who do little else but whine and raise their voice. There is no real character development to be had, rather we are treated to obviously vulnerable characters in obviously vulnerable situations, in a shameless attempt to play on the emotions of the audience. Everything is all too contrived, and feels contrived in every sense. 2/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 06, 2013
    In "The Flowers of War," John Miller(Christian Bale), a mortician, makes his way through the ruins of Nanking while dodging bullets all the way but never forgetting to bring flour to Winchester Cathedral. Instead of saving themselves, a Chinese platoon sacrifice themselves to save a group of girls, leaving Major Li(Dawei Tong) as the only unwounded survivor to take critically injured Pu Sheng(Zhu Liangqi) to the cathedral for care. After which Li takes up a sniper's perch to protect the cathedral which now has a group of prostitutes seeking sanctuary. At first, they are turned away but jump the fence, anyway. Miller sees his chance by trying to buy the services of Yu Mo(Ni Ni), their translator and ersatz leader. She declines but says if he can get them all out of the city, they will make his wildest dreams come true... It is only human nature to believe that all human beings will rise to the occasion under the worst possible circumstances which is the appeal of a movie like "The Flowers of War," set during the Rape of Nanking. And despite a couple of acts of wanton stupidity, that's pretty much true for those here under siege, with it even being implied that Miller might be answering a slightly divine calling(well, somebody sure loves their stained glass). So, while I buy the final results, as this is based on an actual story, I'm not quite sure about the rest, as there are not only contrivances but the second oldest cliche, as the movie drags on to its eventual finale.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 10, 2013
    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.
    Dean M Super Reviewer

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