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With: Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, Nigel Havers, Joe Pantoliano, Leslie Phillips, Masatô Ibu, Emily Richard, Rupert Frazer, Peter Gale, Takatoro Kataoka, Ben Stiller, David Neidorf, Ralph Seymour, Robert Stephens, Zhai Nai She, Guts Ishimatsu, Emma Piper, James Walker, Jack Dearlove, Anna Turner, Ann Castle, Yvonne Gilan, Ralph Michael, Sybil Maas
Written by: Tom Stoppard, based on a book by J.G. Ballard
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 154
Date: 12/11/1987

Empire of the Sun (1987)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Grace Camp

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Author J.G. Ballard called Elem Klimov's Come and See the greatest war movie ever made. But Ballard's own account of war, made into Empire of the Sun (1987, Warner Brothers, $24.98) by director Steven Spielberg, is no slouch either. I was not fond of it when I saw it in 1987, but stylistically it makes much more sense than Saving Private Ryan, as Spielberg can more easily identify with the perspective of the 11 year-old Jim (Christian Bale) than he can with grown soldiers. The young British boy living in Shanghai must grow up in a hurry when the Japanese invade and haul his parents away. With the aid of his own imagination and a scalawag named Basie (John Malkovich), Jim manages to survive years in prison camps. Empire of the Sun has a lighter touch than most war films -- Spielberg was still trying to explore what it meant to make a "grown-up" film -- but it holds up better than I would have imagined. The DVD contains an excellent 1987 feature-length documentary on the making of the film.

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