7.8/10
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Empire of the Sun (1987)

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

Director:

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
Reviews
Popularity
1,824 ( 21)

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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:

british | food | pow | pilot | american | See All (278) »

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:

Carstvo sunca  »

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

References Come and See (1985) See more »

Soundtracks

The British Grenadiers
Traditional
Arranged and Conducted by John Williams
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Very emotional film, with brilliant young Christian Bale.
27 January 2004 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

Empire of the Sun, I have just revisited this film on DVD and was amazed the effect it left on me. This is almost an unknown film relative to most other Spielberg work. The DVD is not even available in Australia, so I had it 'Amazoned' from the US.

Christian Bales performance as the 12 year old Jim is mesmerizing. He is in virtually every scene of the 2.5 hour movie and gives us the full range of emotions. He also one of the best looking kids I've seen, which add tremendously to the viewing appeal of the movie. A true heart throb in the making.

As a history lesson Empire give us an insight to the happenings in China in WWII, and the ambitions of the Japanese Empire, which are never touched on in other WWII movies.

The most emotional part of the film for me: Jim is looking through the fence at the Japanese airbase, the sun is setting, he is dreaming of flying in those incredible machines, pilots are smartly uniformed and decorated, offices passing drinks to the young pilots, superb music playing, Zeros ready to go, Jim salutes the Japanese heroes as they are flying out. What we know is that the war is lost for Japan and these pilots are surely on Kamikaze suicide missions. We feel great empathy for these fellow human beings despite the fact that they are the enemy.

The images in Empire are beautiful to look at, the movie is thought provoking and provide some history lesson, if somewhat fantasy and sacrine sweet. A behind the scenes war movie with heart. My favourite Spielberg movie and in my top 15 of all time. Other favourites in no order. Titanic, Patton, Unforgiven, Airport, Terminator, Salaam Bombay, 2001, Bridge on River Kwai, Minority Report.


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