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Empire of the Sun (1987)

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

Director:

Steven Spielberg

Writers:

Tom Stoppard (screenplay), J.G. Ballard (novel)
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Popularity
1,824 ( 166)
Nominated for 6 Oscars. Another 13 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Christian Bale ... Jim
John Malkovich ... Basie
Miranda Richardson ... Mrs. Victor
Nigel Havers ... Dr. Rawlins
Joe Pantoliano ... Frank Demarest
Leslie Phillips ... Maxton
Masatô Ibu Masatô Ibu ... Sgt. Nagata
Emily Richard Emily Richard ... Mary Graham, Jim's mother
Rupert Frazer Rupert Frazer ... John Graham, Jim's father
Peter Gale Peter Gale ... Mr. Victor
Takatarô Kataoka Takatarô Kataoka ... Kamikaze Boy Pilot (as Takatoro Kataoka)
Ben Stiller ... Dainty
David Neidorf ... Tiptree
Ralph Seymour ... Cohen
Robert Stephens ... 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

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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook

Country:

USA

Release Date:

25 December 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El imperio del sol See more »

Filming Locations:

UK See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,314,509, 13 December 1987, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$22,238,696

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$66,700,000, 31 December 1987
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby (35 mm prints)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The boy's name, Jim Graham, is taken from author J.G. Ballard's given name, James Graham Ballard. See more »

Goofs

When an older kid chases Jim, they pass a poster for Gone with the Wind. The film was released in 1939, but the poster is from the 1967 re-release. 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 ...
See more »


Soundtracks

THESE FOOLISH THINGS
Lyrics by by Eric Maschwitz and music by Jack Strachey
Performed by Elizabeth Welch
Courtesy of EMI Records Limited
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Very emotional film, with brilliant young Christian Bale.
27 January 2004 | by tegg96See 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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