New York Times - 12/09/1987
"...[EMPIRE OF THE SUN] seems to speak a language all its own....Great and small triumphs...steadily deliver[ed]..."
New York Times - 12/27/1987
Included in the New York Times "10 Best Films of 1987"
Variety - 12/02/1987
"...[The] sweeping picture is studded by spectacular set pieces..."
Premiere - 09/01/2005
"Malkovich walks a line between sentiment and grit in his relationship with the young Christian Bale, and brings it off."
Uncut - 03/01/2006 5 stars out of 5 -- "[With] astounding performances from John Malkovich and a teenage Christian Bale. Essential."
Sight and Sound - 04/01/2006
"The scenes in which the Japanese invade Shanghai and the English forlornly try to flee are handled with huge flair; but unusually for Speilberg, the performances and subtlety of his direction register equally strongly."
Steven Spielberg's EMPIRE OF THE SUN, based on the autobiographical novel by J.G. Ballard, stars Christian Bale as Jim Graham, a British schoolboy separated from his upper-class colonial parents when the Japanese sweep into Shanghai during World War II. Temporarily orphaned, Jim attaches himself to Basie (John Malkovich), a fast-talking American opportunist determined make a buck off the spoils of war. Later, when the two are interned in a prison camp, Jim's boyish fantasies are fueled by the grace and daring of the Japanese fighter pilots whom he comes to idolize despite their enemy status. Spielberg's visually spectacular wartime epic is a testimony to the human will to survive and a child's ability to find wonder even in the midst of horror. Thirteen-year-old Welsh actor Christian Bale is brillant as Jim in his feature film debut. Spielberg himself identified more with Jim, a boy who is obsessed with flying and who experiences the death of his innocence, than with E.T.'s Elliott. After a year of negotiations with the Chinese, Spielberg and his crew were allowed to film in Shanghai, which was virtually unchanged since World War II.
Coming Of Age |
Essential Cinema |
Kids Adventure |
Period Piece |
Prison / Prisoners |
Theatrical Release |
World War II
Theatrical Release: December 9, 1987
The film was shot in Shanghai, China, England, and Spain.
J.G. Ballard based his novel EMPIRE OF THE SUN on his own experiences as a boy separated from his parents in Shanghai's British Protectorate and interned in a Japanese prison camp during World War II.
Steven Spielberg was originally slated to produce EMPIRE OF THE SUN with David Lean as director, but Lean became daunted by the prospect of adapting the J.G. Ballard novel and filming in China.
The film features one of the first screen appearances of Ben Stiller.