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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

War Orphan

Empire of the Sun (1987) on IMDb

Plot Overview

boy at windowAfter their attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invade Shanghai forcing the British residents to flee if they can. An English boy of nine, Jamie “Jim” Graham (Christian Bale) aka Ace, gets left behind and must scrounge for him­self in a city racked by turmoil once his home runs out of food. He fortunately latches onto the coat­tails of an American, “a survivor,” Basie (John Malkovich) by offering a quid pro quo of inside info where the rich abandoned houses are. The Japanese got there first, so that didn't work out well for the yanks.

They are taken for processing to the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center in Shanghai (“a pit”) and then to Soochow Creek Intern­ment Camp where life is a “country club” relatively speaking. The movie skips ahead till 1945 when the atom bomb is dropped on Japan, and then there's another mad scramble that a now acclimated Ace must face.


Let's look at the words of a mysterious Agur a member of the North Arabian tribe of Massa, which were appen­ded to the Proverbs of Solo­mon, pre­served by the Jews in their Tanakh, ap­prop­riated by Chris­tians in their Bible, and even­tually sneaked into movies subject to my reviews. (Prov. 30:1) “The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal.”

gospel choir(Prov. 30:2-3) “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.” That pretty much describes the idiot kid Jamie starting out. His mind wanders when singing a solo in the church choir, and he lets go of his mom's hand in a crowd to retrieve a dropped toy. Brother!

(Prov. 30:4) “Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?” His ignorance is contrasted here in scripture with the great unknowable Jehovah. In the movie it's contrasted with a super weapon the atom bomb seen exploded in the distance. Jim, “Learned a new word today. Atom bomb. It was like God taking a photograph.

(Prov. 30:5-6) “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” In “Empire” is found applied two expressions that can be derived from the word of God, but as they are not exact quotes one must be careful in their application. Jamie tells his father John Graham (Rupert Frazer,) “We're awfully lucky, aren't we? living here, having every­thing.” His dad replies yeah, “The harder I work the luckier we get.” Here's an example of, ‘God helps those who help them­selves.’ But when Jamie peddles his bike furiously trying to catch the lorry spiriting away refuges, he's not “lucky” enough to catch them no matter how hard he tries. Later when Jim is being hunted out­side the wire by camp leader Sergeant Nagata, his luck is about to run out until his buddy distracts the hunter. The punctiliously clean Japanese taking his bath reminds us that cleanliness is next to godliness (Psalm 18:20,) but Jim had to camouflage his face with mud to go hunting pheasant for Thanksgiving.

spud(Prov. 30:7-9) “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” Early in the picture Ace is seen at a lavish costume party thrown by Mr. Lock­wood (Robert Stephens,) indulging him­self in delicacies from a spread table, dressed as Sinbad the Sailor, and holding forth that “I've become an atheist,” as if he's some magical being who doesn't need God. Later in captivity he learns that “people will do any­thing ... for a potato.” They forget their manners and steal. He's got to resolve his food supply issue some­where in the middle.

Production Values

” (1987) was directed by Steven Spielberg. Its screenplay was written by Tom Stop­pard based on a semi-auto­bio­graphical novel by J.G. Ballard. It stars Christian Bale, John Malkovich, and Miranda Richard­son. Spielberg master­fully brought out the wonder of a child in Bale who gave a most worthy performance. The other perfor­mances were pretty good, too. Ben Stiller had a small part in it and also played an uncredited American POW. Christian Bale for what it's worth played a sort of batman—i.e a British military orderly—to of one of them.

This movie is rated PG. A background of parlor music kept it from getting too tense. The spectacular cinema­tog­raphy by Allen Daviau was second to none.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I found this to be a feel-good movie making me feel good about myself. Not being around children much I appreciated seeing the world through a child's eyes. To be sure, he was a “difficult child” so people up to their eye­balls in children might not find it so appealing. It was a great movie.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.