A young English boy struggles to survive under Japanese occupation during World War II.

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(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 6 Oscars. Another 12 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Jim
...
...
Mrs. Victor
...
Dr. Rawlins
...
...
Maxton
Masatô Ibu ...
Emily Richard ...
Mary Graham, Jim's mother
Rupert Frazer ...
Peter Gale ...
Mr. Victor
Takatarô Kataoka ...
Kamikaze Boy Pilot (as Takatoro Kataoka)
...
Dainty
David Neidorf ...
Tiptree
...
Cohen
...
Mr. Lockwood
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Storyline

Based on J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, tells the story of a boy, James Graham, whose privileged life is upturned by the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, December 8, 1941. Separated from his parents, he is eventually captured, and taken to Soo Chow confinement camp, next to a captured Chinese airfield. Amidst the sickness and food shortages in the camp, Jim attempts to reconstruct his former life, all the while bringing spirit and dignity to those around him. Written by Jeff Hansen <jmh@umich.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

japanese | british | food | pow | pilot | See All (279) »

Taglines:

To survive in a world at war, he must find a strength greater than all the events that surround him.

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

25 December 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El imperio del sol  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$35,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$22,238,696 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Steven Spielberg had planned a long, continuous shot when Jim was standing on top of the building at the prison camp, watching the American planes bomb the airfields. The shot was very complicated and would require a single take. He gave instructions to Christian Bale to get excited, jump up and down, and run around on the rooftop as the planes passed and the bombs went off. However, Bale became nervous as the stunts began, and didn't do much of anything. Since most of the explosions had been used up on this shot, Spielberg (after having some soft, fatherly words with the young Bale) improvised with several shots from different close-up angles, eventually getting Bale to give a more excited performance. See more »

Goofs

Early in the movie, when the mother pats the kids arm putting him to sleep, a junction in two different takes is visible by the way the boy's arm moves. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: [title card] In 1941 China and Japan had been in a state of undeclared war for four years. A Japanese army of occupation was in control of much of the countryside and many towns and cities. In Shanghai thousands of Westerners, protected by the diplomatic security of the International Settlement, continued to live as they had lived since the British came here in the 19th century and built in the image of their own country... built banking houses, hotels, offices, churches and homes ...
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Connections

Referenced in The 100 Greatest War Films (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

SWING IS IN THE AIR
Performed by Jack Hylton
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

This movie was a visual, character driven movie of superior quality,
30 November 2001 | by See all my reviews

This movie was a visual, character driven movie of superior quality, even for Steven Speilberg. Some say that Speilberg has too much the eye of a child, but I tend to disagree. Too many filmmakers today are producing slick, throw away action flicks that at first seem promising but eventually fall into predictable, fluff and special effects laden, thinly plotted, dialogue-poor, characterless movies that are gone before the popcorn. Yes, this film has a lot of great Special Effects (So did Schindler's List.) Moreover, a lot of great action to keep the story pace from dragging. The idea of a movie is for the actors and directors to show their stuff (Hopefully around some good writing.) This movie did it for me. I have to agree with all those who praised Christian Bale for his performance in this movie. He was brilliant. In addition, I got to see Ben Stiller in an unusual role for him. I thought that John Malcovitch acted perfectly for this film and yes he was a Han Solo/Indiana Jones character, but with even less depth. His role was pivotal only in so far as it affected the boy. We were not as concerned with his character in so much as his shadow was cast on Jim through out the movie. The war was bigger than this little boy was and it was exquisitely done. Steven Speilberg gives us wonder, mystery, action, adventure and history in everything he does. He's the consummate filmmaker.


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