I generally not a big fan of war films, with obvious reasons; They tend to be, shall I say, a bit depressing. What do you expect from a war movie? But this time, I watched a war movie from a boy's point of view. How war is not just pure black and white or good versus evil. There are so many things at stake here. And this movie really delivers the whole moral ambiguity to the next level.
An aristocratic British boy named James/Jim Graham (Christian Bale) is separated from his family at the start of World War II after the Japanese Army invades British controlled areas of China. Reduced to living on the street and fighting for food, Jim is eventually captured in a Japanese Prison of War camp for British civilians. He befriends a manipulative American scavenger named Basie (John Malkovich). When the war ends, the boy torn from everything he knew attempts to again find his parents. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
This is Christian Bale first performance film debut. He was only 13 years old, and it remains his best performance to date. I cannot think of another acting that demands more intelligence and nuance from a child lead. It is so weird to see Christian Bale who was still a kid, and yet I knew when I watched this movie, he would grew up to become one of the best actor in the world...and Batman, nonetheless. He appears in nearly every scene, and he never once displays any awkward hesitation so characteristic of child performances, even when Steven Spielberg ladles on the hokiness. The role is exceptionally complicated, but he is nothing short of perfect. This movie is all about him and his absolutely amazing performance. I cannot believe that he didn't get nominated for Oscar for this movie! Was it because he was a young boy? There were so many child actors got nominated for all these years. I just wondered why. And I applaud Steven Spielberg's directing style that totally different from most of his movies. This was the closest thing he directed that resembles Schindler's List for children. Can you believe that this movie is intended for kids? Christian Bale include himself in every scenes, and the film becomes a sublime distillation of a child's fantasy world in a time of war and terror. His character is lonely, and he would do anything not to be alone. Watch and see cameos of actors that only have so little scenes. You'd be surprised to see 'em.
Everyone's acting is superb, especially John Malkovich's performance. He is Basie, an American scavenger and a con-man in China. He delivers a great acting, and totally balancing his performance and Christian Bale's performance. During the course of the movie, I could see a love-hate relationship between them, and Basie is the only father figure for Jim and totally depending on each other. Their relationship culminated in one single scene that I couldn't forget; when they had to grow up and separated themselves from their 'family' dependency and walked to separate ways. I could see that their performances are truly sincere and shines. But the ending of Empire is in fact troubled by our knowledge that something irreparable has already occurred, and that no pat finish can account for the horrors that Jim has experienced. Just like The Pianist for kids, in my humble opinion. The dead look in his eyes is not miraculously dispelled, it is impossible to think that Jim will ever be the boy he once was. There is something broken in his character by this point, and it makes the film all the more affecting that even a return to his former life will not resolve his troubles. Yet the stubborn defiance he displays with these few, perverse films is what I have always admired most about him - these moments of doubt, when childhood doesn't seem so appealing, and dreams take on the strange hue of an oncoming nightmare.
Due to my hectic schedule, I will not be able to review all new movies every week. I apologize. I will however review some older movies from DVDs from time to time. Thank you for understanding.
Welcome to my humble weblog, a place to quench your addiction of movies. Enjoy your stay. Sometimes it's okay to be addicted to movies. PS: Beware of my brash review and language. I have a crazy obsessive compulsive behavior of watching movies. I called it being passionate. LOL. Grab some popcorn, and have a nice day! By the way, you can click the boxes at each reviews to watch the movie trailers. Enjoy!