Empire of the Sun (1987) Review


A young English boy named Jim battles to survive under Japanese occupation during World War II in a truly inspiring story.


Jim really seemed to have it all in his life, coming from a very rich and well off family in the upper class, a huge house with everything he could ever possibly want and need. All of that was about to change though when the Japanese invaded Shanghai. He is then separated from his parents and must battle to keep alive, making friends with an American Basie and then providing hope for everyone around him when they are captured and taken to Soo Chow confinement camp.

I think the true beauty of this film and the way the story is told has to be that the innocence of a child during War is something else. Not fully understating the brutal nature of the war, having hope that none of the adults actually show and a huge battle to actually stay alive.

This is the second time I have watched this film and the main thing I could remember was how outstanding Christian Bale’s performance was, I am very happy to confirm that is still true after a second watch. He really is something else and on-screen constantly, Steven Spielberg certainly has a unique way of bringing out an amazing performance from a child actor. Making his film debut at only 12 years old, no wonder he has gone on to be an outstanding actor and film star! To go along with Bale we get a brilliant performance from John Malkovich as well, playing opposite as Basie in a very unlikely friendship.

The cast has a very good mix of British and American actors, showcasing a lot of talent. All pulling together to create a very impressive overall film, with the performances fitting in very well with the action sequences. We are shown a lot of different character development as they must deal with being prisoners in the camp, how they are coping with that and ultimately hoping Jim survives. Watching the film you really do find yourself engrossed in the story and wanting everything to be ok for him.

Another aspect of World War II really showing how many different things happened during that time. This film really focusing on the rich British people who had been living in China during that time. Showing that money does not stop anything from happening to you, in war social class means nothing. I think that even shows in Jim and how he grows up very quickly during the trauma as he was rather obnoxious to begin with but we soon warm to him as he shows amazing grit and fight.

This film for Spielberg showcases two things he is fantastic at, having a leading child actor in a film and war. Combining both of those aspects to create a truly special film, I actually feel this one often gets forgotten about and does not receive enough credit at all for the emotional rollercoaster you are taken on throughout the journey.

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