EMPIRE OF THE SUN - 1987 – A Classic Review - directed by Steven Spielberg - Tom Stoppard and others wrote the screenplay, which was adapted from an autobiographical book by J.G. Ballard – Japanese history advisor, Helene Shizue Fukuya - players are: Jim/Jamie (Christian Bale), Basie (John Malkovich), Mrs. Victor (Miranda Richardson), Dr. Ralins (Nigel Havers), boy Kamikaze (Takataro Kataoka) - Over 4000 actors auditioned for the part of Jim, but 13 year old Bale got the role.
Exterior shooting took place in Shanghai and Spain and the interiors on Elstree Studios stages in the UK. The last film shot in Shanghai was in the 40’s. Although some replicas and restored historical aircraft were used during film, there were also 12 radio controlled Zeros and Spitfires.
Shanghai, China just before WWII – December 8, 1941. In a spectacular mob scene, Jamie, the 9 year old son of an upper class British family is separated from his parents
when the Japanese invade. We see a huge, colorful poster of “Gone With The Wind”, which is playing in a Shanghai movie house. He spends the rest of the war learning to survive in a prisoner of war camp. His upper crust attitudes are quickly shed as he becomes the consummate survivor. A very compressed coming-of-age ritual indeed.
Malkovich perfectly fulfills his role as the manipu-lative, avaricious, sleazy soldier of fortune with a deeply hidden soft heart, who runs the black market in stolen and traded contraband in the prisoner camp, which is next to a Japanese airfield from which Kamikaze pilots depart.
I was pleased to see the range of Bale's acting ability revealed at such an early age. It would be a challenge for any actor, at any age, to display a loss of innocence and to convey the emotional process of transforming himself from a child confronting death on a daily basis, into a young man now facing the rest of his life.
After years of fighting to survive… what kind of thrill does life have to offer? That’s a challenge usually only faced by men who go to war. Jim is going to be the only 13 year old boy with a thousand yard stare.