Published on October 10th, 2012 | by Chris


The Flowers of War (2011)

Movie by :
Yimou Zhang

Reviewed by:
On October 10, 2012
Last modified:October 10, 2012


A harrowing tale of survival in Nanking, China under Japanese occupation in 1937.

Flowers of War (2011)The Flowers of War is a rather harrowing picture set in 1937 Nanking under Japanese occupation. It follows the story of one John Miller (Christian Bale), an undertaker who has arrived to bury the priest at the local Catholic church-slash-orphanage.  Unfortunately the mechanism of his death has left no body to deal with, only a houseful of orphaned Chinese girls and one boy.

He finds himself taking on the persona of a replacement priest in order to protect the orphans from the Japanese.  Add to this mix the arrival of a group of prostitutes, initially a godsend for Mr. Miller, but who prove to almost be more trouble than they're worth hanging onto.

Eventually the "ladies" realize that they have a duty to fulfill, in order to get the children out of the city and to safety.  (No spoilers, so that's as much as I can tell you!)

I found this to be a pretty good film overall.  Not nearly as moving and soul-crushing as City of Life and Death (or as good) but still an excellent tale of survival, duty, and humanity in a time of desperation.  Mr. Bale once more proves his mettle as an actor, displaying initial depravity and indifference, yet eventually moving towards realization of the situation.  The scene on the staircase (no spoilers!!) is particularly hard.

There is a combat scene involving one of a pair of Chinese soldiers (the other, dying one, taken care of by the "ladies") that is especially creative and well executed.  The Japanese are predictably (and rightfully so) portrayed as cruel animals.  There is another sequence in particular which keeps this movie well away from any PG-13 rating, and is incredibly painful to get through.  The opening battle scene is definitely impressive, and sets the tone for the entire film.

The children playing the orphans are also well suited to the task.  Displaying a wide range of emotion under immense pressure....

Another "story that needs to be told" movie, The Flowers of War is an excellent film.  Not a combat-heavy movie, but a story that needs to be told.

IMDB: The Flowers of War (2011)

The Flowers of War [Blu-ray] The Flowers of War [Blu-ray]
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The film, set during the Japanese invasion of China, is told from a young girl's point of view, not as a history lesson, but as an intimate, elemental and paradoxically universal celebration of the human spirit...

DVD Information

Binding: Blu-ray
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Manufacturer: Lionsgate
Original Release Date:
  • Christian Bale
  • Ni Ni
  • Xinyi Zhang
  • Tianyuan Huang
  • Xiting Han


  • Region A/1
  • Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Closed-captioned, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • 146 minutes
  • R
  • English & Cantonese, English, Spanish Subtitles


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The Flowers of War (2011) Chris

Summary: A harrowing tale of survival in Nanking, China under Japanese occupation in 1937.


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About the Author

I’ve been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I’ve been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

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