The Flowers of War


Mixed or average reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 22
  2. Negative: 2 out of 22

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Richard Nilsen
    Mar 29, 2012
    The film is cinematically brilliant but morally obtuse.
  2. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Jan 19, 2012
    The Flowers of War is the latest movie focused on the Nanking atrocities. Lu Chuan's "City of Life and Death'' was released in the United States last year and presented a far greater, grimmer, and more punishing re-creation of the sacking.
  3. Reviewed by: Pete Hammond
    Dec 29, 2011
    Ultimately an inspiring, stirring and unforgettable human drama in the face of a horrifying war. It is highly recommended.
  4. Reviewed by: J.R. Jones
    Jan 19, 2012
    Bale admirably shoulders the burden of Western identification figure, but the heart of the story is the ongoing tension between the schoolgirls and the hookers, who see in each other aspects of womanhood that are out of their respective reach.
  5. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Jan 18, 2012
    Now let me ask you: Can you think of any reason the character John Miller is needed to tell his story? Was any consideration given to the possibility of a Chinese priest? Would that be asking for too much?
  6. Reviewed by: Sheri Linden
    Jan 19, 2012
    When it comes to storytelling, Zhang Yimou's 19th feature is decidedly backward-looking: A lavish period weepie set against the atrocities of the Nanking Massacre, "Flowers" abounds with well-worn movie archetypes and slathers on schmaltz.
  7. Reviewed by: Sheri Linden
    Dec 26, 2011
    Flowers abounds with well-worn movie archetypes and slathers on schmaltz.
  8. Reviewed by: Alison Willmore
    Jan 19, 2012
    Bale's presence in the film is a kind of misdirect, a calculated element intended to better its international commercial prospects -- his character makes a clumsily predictable journey from cynical drunken expat to hero willing to sacrifice a chance to escape the country in order to care for the children who've ended up in his charge.
  9. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Feb 10, 2012
    That's not to say it's a bad film, necessarily. It's just not as good as it could have -- and should have -- been.
  10. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Dec 22, 2011
    The biggest problem, however, is the way Zhang romanticizes the unimaginably awful, turning gold-hearted prostitutes and virginal orphans into cinematic martyrs. Though his talents are vast, there may be too much truth in this particular story to suit his extravagant tastes.
  11. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Jan 17, 2012
    It's a special film of sacrifice, redemption and hope in the shadow of a holocaust that packs an emotional wallop from which there is no escape. I can't get it out of my thoughts, and I recommend it highly.
  12. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Dec 23, 2011
    Zhang Yimou, one of China's best-known filmmakers, deserves a great big lump of coal in his holiday stocking thanks to his ludicrous soap opera The Flowers of War.
  13. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    Dec 22, 2011
    Affecting at times, but finally feels overblown and heavy-handed.
  14. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Dec 19, 2011
    This film has too many weak, unconnected strands (what's the subplot about the narrator's father doing here anyway?), too much overtly expositional dialogue, and too unfocused a narrative to really cohere. And then there's that whole matter of expendable whores.
  15. Reviewed by: Tasha Robinson
    Jan 18, 2012
    Many of Flowers' individual performances and scenes are striking and masterful, but taken as a whole, it's less a film than a rallying cry of "Our people feel more deeply than yours."
  16. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Feb 23, 2012
    While Bale speaks in an anachronistically modern American vernacular, the Chinese cast recite grammatically perfect, phonetic English so stilted you find yourself wishing the film would stick to subtitles. This is not so much a question of a story being lost in translation as a movie that never finds the right story to tell.
  17. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Jan 24, 2012
    It's something you'd think only the crassest of Hollywood producers would come up with - injecting sex appeal into an event as ghastly at the Nanjing massacre - but it's an element central to The Flowers of War, a contrived and unpersuasive look at an oft-dramatized historical moment.
  18. Reviewed by: Mike Hale
    Dec 20, 2011
    Mr. Bale, turning in a respectable if oddly chipper performance under the circumstances, has the unfortunate task of playing a character who doesn't really add up.
  19. Reviewed by: David Fear
    Dec 20, 2011
    Zhang's mixture of unsparing violence, mawkish sentimentality and garish flourishes creates one uncomfortable aesthetic.
  20. Reviewed by: Paul Bradshaw
    Jul 28, 2012
    Less about the thousands who died in the Nanking massacre than about how stunning it all looked, Zhang Yimou's epic puts Bale in the midst of a lavish nightmare.
  21. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Dec 20, 2011
    Scene by scene, The Flowers of War is an erratic and ungainly piece of storytelling, full of melodramatic twists and grotesque visual excesses (a bullet pierces first a stained-glass window and then a girl's neck), which are nonetheless delivered with startling conviction.
  22. Reviewed by: Tim Grierson
    Dec 20, 2011
    With The Flowers of War, Zhang mostly just proves that there's no tragedy too terrible that it can't be turned into an operatic pageant - human suffering reduced to visual showmanship.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 61 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 19
  2. Negative: 3 out of 19
  1. Dec 25, 2011
    I have never been deeply moved by a Chinese movie,but the film ,The Flowes of War does it,.It made me a unforgettable impression.The poltI have never been deeply moved by a Chinese movie,but the film ,The Flowes of War does it,.It made me a unforgettable impression.The polt and the frame of movie are very excellent .Most important, I was deeply stirred by the sad story of 13 FLOWERS .ALSO by the CHINA in the past .As a Chinese,I feel angry and wanna cry .But I can't forget the history of this period .This is a good film ,and it gives me a significant lesson.By the way,I hope you can love it like me. Full Review »
  2. Jan 9, 2012
    wtf, all those "10" reviews are written by the exact same person, just look at the bad english. They aren't even reviews, I would considerwtf, all those "10" reviews are written by the exact same person, just look at the bad english. They aren't even reviews, I would consider them spam. That is why I give 0 points to the film, let say for bad marketing practices. Oh and by the way the review that says "contains spoilers" doesn't even mention anything from the film at all. Full Review »
  3. Jul 17, 2012
    Don't go into this hoping it's an action flick. This is not a "Hero" or "House of Flying Daggers" martial arts/Wuxia flick. And just becauseDon't go into this hoping it's an action flick. This is not a "Hero" or "House of Flying Daggers" martial arts/Wuxia flick. And just because it's a "war movie" doesn't mean it has to be non-stop action. Saving Private Ryan is mostly drama with an under current of action, and so is this. If you want action, watch a Michael Bay movie or a Jason Stathom flick. This is a Zhang Yimou movie (Curse of the Golden Flower, The Road Home...etc) so it's going to mostly be about drama, as it should. It's a film about the relationship between an American mortician (Christian Bale), teenage Chinese school girls, and Chinese prostitutes learning to respect one another during the Japanese invasion of China, and it's done so in a beautiful sort of melodramatic way. Hiding in a church, we take a journey with the characters as they get to know one another under stressful, war-time tension. I was surprised when learning that Christian Bale would be play the American mortician, but he seemed to be more believable than I expected. It's worth a viewing, especially if you're a fan of Zhang Yimou's work. Full Review »