User Score
7.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 51 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 51
  2. Negative: 7 out of 51

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  1. Oct 11, 2013
    8
    A great film. Very interesting and moving story. You really get a view on the Nanjing Massacre with the graphic cruelty and horror shown in many scenes.
    Wouldn't say it was Bale's best performance. The plot manages to stick on the main theme which is war, courage, sacrifice..
  2. May 13, 2013
    5
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. One of the ancient ploys of the film industry is to make a film about non-white people and find a way, however convoluted, to tell it from the point of view of a white character. "The Help" (2011) is a recent example: The film is essentially about how poor, hard-working black maids in Mississippi empowered a young white woman to write a best-seller about them. "Glory" (1989) is about a Civil War regiment of black soldiers; the story is seen through the eyes of their white commander.
    One of the last places you'd expect to see this practice is in a Chinese film. But what else can we make of Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War"? It takes place during the Rape of Nanking (1937-38), one of the most horrifying atrocities in history, during which the Imperial Japanese Army invaded the Chinese capital city and slaughtered an estimated 300,000 civilians, usually raping the women first. It is one thing for civilians to die in the course of a war, and another for them to be hunted down and wiped out on a personal basis for the crime of their race.
    Now we have the first fiction film about this event by one of the leading Chinese directors, who contrives to tell it through the experiences of a drunken American mortician named John Miller (Christian Bale). This man finds himself in Nanking at the time, misses a chance to escape the city and ends up hiding out in a huge Catholic cathedral, which is theoretically neutral ground.
    Also sheltered in the cathedral are about 25 young Chinese women, divided between schoolgirls and prostitutes. Miller is a mess in the early scenes of the film, but slowly he pulls himself together, sobers up, dresses in a priest's vestments and takes on the responsibility of protecting the women. He's assisted by a young man named George (Huang Tianyuan), whose owlish spectacles and little cap make him look ineffectual and set him up for heroism.
    The cathedral is surrounded by Japanese troops, who occupy the whole city and are now routinely shooting all civilians on sight. For the time being, those inside the walls of the cathedral grounds are safe, but to leave means the certainty of death. Miller's improvisations and quick thinking, and the partial cooperation of a Japanese officer who loves music and is therefore not all evil, you see, keeps the women alive, despite some close calls. This episodic cliffhanging sustains the narrative; a third of a million may be dead, but for our purposes, all depends on the survival of these young women, and the redemption of the alcoholic American. Do you get my drift?
    Spoiler warning: The Japanese outside the cathedral know about the schoolchildren but not about the hookers in the wine cellar. The music-loving Japanese officer invites the girls to come and sing at a party for his staff. It is virtually certain this will lead to their rape and murder. The prostitutes have also undergone a process of redemption and now, no longer crass and self-serving, they nobly volunteer to switch clothing with the girls and take their places. Then it will be up to "Father John" to somehow save the students.
    "The Flowers of War" is in many ways a good film, as we expect from Zhang Yimou ("Ju Dou," "Raise the Red Lantern," "To Live"). It is handsomely photographed. Its exteriors were apparently shot on sets, including an impressive one for the cathedral and its surrounding grounds. Christian Bale grows tiresome as a drunk, but then straightens up and is an adequate hero, although lacking in depth and background. Yu Mo, the leader of the prostitutes, is played in a effective heart-of-gold way by Ni Ni. Huang Tianyuan is good as George, but there is never a danger of him stealing a scene.
    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?
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  3. Feb 5, 2013
    4
    -sacking of Nanking characterized by historical reference to rape -clever plot structure juxtaposing highly sexual prostitutes and asexual church students, depicts some harsh realities but omits some scenes rather than going overboard for shock value -could have done more to reflect political positions in control, sale, experience, and morals in sexuality of characters (see Lust Caution) -beautifully shot war scenes and costume -American (Bale) and Japanese were stereotyped caricatures -characters not developed and background facts haphazardly added without connection to plot Expand
  4. Dec 16, 2012
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Donner 10 à un film est toujours mal vu. Mais moi je me dis, si j'ai adorée le film, s'il m'a touché, si je n'y ai pas trouvé de longueur et que j'en aurais demandé plus...voilà quelques raison pourquoi je donne 10. Dans ce film dont les images ne sont pas facile à regarder, où les balles traversent les corps et les têtes...certaines scènes démontrent un grand côté artistique, voire la beauté à travers le drame, la scène qui me vient en tête est celle que les filles de joies s'enroulent dans les draps blancs, elles tournent sur elles-mêmes, en même temps, tel une performance de ballet. Lorsque les filles laissent tomber à tour de rôle un miroir qui éclate en fracats par terre au ralenti. Tout au long du film il y a des intrigues et des revirements de situation. Les actrices asiatiques m'ont particulièrement touchées. Vraiment, ce film est magnique. Expand
  5. Aug 19, 2012
    10
    Amazing Amazing Amazing movie. Tear jerker but amazing acting and amazing story line. It has to be one of the best movies I have ever seen. And I am a avid movie goer.
  6. Jul 17, 2012
    7
    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 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. Expand
  7. Feb 9, 2012
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. It is a good chinese film.Best director,best Actor,best Screenwriter.I moved by the film deeply!The film expresses braveï¼ Expand
  8. GGH
    Jan 28, 2012
    10
    The Flowers of War: The story happened in a church where is closest to God, the cruelty of war and the goodness of humanity exhibited... kinetic battle scenes, beautiful photography and impressive performances, sad result but inspiring and unforgettable! I have to say this is an amazing movie!
  9. Jan 12, 2012
    8
    Great movie, which tell you a crucial war story from a special point. However, I still can not fee strong logic for those 13 "flowers" to sacrifice their life for others.
  10. Jan 11, 2012
    10
    I think this film reflects a compelling story of China. The director made â
  11. Jan 11, 2012
    0
    I gave up after 10 minutes. Imagine Nanking(2007) with the flippant humour of an Indian Jones movie and you have , in essence, this sorry sorry excuse for a movie. Its awful. I am embarrassed for the director . And i can only imagine how Mr Bale feels. Its actually a bit disturbing how the death of children can be inter-mixed with humour. I feel somewhat disgusted by the movie and i can only hope that it quickly disappears and will not be for general release. Expand
  12. Jan 9, 2012
    1
    Sounds like we got over here a bunch of hardcore fans of Zhang Yimou from his home country, or Chna boosters in general. It's really not that good a movie. Evidently director Zhang tried extremely hard to appease the western critics in order to win an Oscar but the end result is both shallow and obvious.
  13. Jan 9, 2012
    0
    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 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.
  14. Dec 25, 2011
    10
    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 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. Expand
Metascore
46

Mixed or average reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 22
  2. Negative: 2 out of 22
  1. Reviewed by: Paul Bradshaw
    Jul 28, 2012
    60
    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.
  2. Reviewed by: Richard Nilsen
    Mar 29, 2012
    40
    The film is cinematically brilliant but morally obtuse.
  3. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Feb 23, 2012
    50
    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.