Sunday, March 23, 2014

CWE: "Empire of the Sun" (1987)

Summary: Jamie is a schoolboy living in China with his parents as World War II begins. After being separated from his family, he is taken to live in an internment camp run by the Japanese until the end of the war. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by J.G. Ballard.
  • Next up in Carolyn's collection of prison camp movies!
  • I've read -- and loved -- the book this is based on. I read the sequel too -- "The Kindness of Women" -- which is more problematic.
  • I've seen the movie probably a dozen times. I'm not entirely sure what it is about films set in prison/internment camps during World War II was attracts me so much. I guess the idea of the individual spirit refusing to give up, surviving despite the odds, and how the situation changes each person (or doesn't). Maybe that explains my love of post-apocalyptic stories too. Stories of people thrown into extreme situations and how it changes them fascinate me.
  • Oh, Christian Bale. So very, very young. He was 13 when the movie came out.  Huh -- Christian Bale and I are almost exactly the same age.
  • The shots of these privileged English people dressed up in (literally) ridiculous clothing driving through the streets of Shanghai are excellent.
  • Why would you let your kid wonder off like that if you knew that a military encampment was so close?
  • Back to the house, which is now trashed/looted.
  • After a brief pause to go to the grocery store, we're back with Jim being found by some Americans (and getting the nickname "Jim").
  • Poor Jim. No one will accept his surrender, the Americans can't get anyone to buy him...
  • We're an hour in before Jim gets captured.
  • Jim is quite the determined kid, isn't he? He is not being left behind. He's not stupid, either. And despite growing up in extreme privilege, he seems very adaptable and able to do what he needs to do to survive.
  • We're in "sometime later" land, as Jim is a bit older, a bit thinner, has lost the schoolboy hair, and speaks some Japanese. And is quite a bit wilier. Actually, it's 1945 so maybe a couple of years later...
  • ... and everyone knows Jim. He is a very polite boy.
  • I always forget that Ben Stiller is in this movie.
  • Mrs. Victor is not a fan of Jim.
  • Privacy, Jim. Really.
  • Jim is welcomed amongst the Americans after taking a brave/stupidly reckless trip outside the wire.
  • Oh, Frank. Always getting pushed aside for Jim.
  • This time, Jim apologizing and prostrating himself doesn't do any good. And he's not big enough or strong enough to protect Basie's stuff. So out of the American dorm he goes.
  • Oh, Jim. Who has never been to England. Who has spent at least 1/3 of his life in the camp. Who doesn't remember what his parents look like. Who doesn't know how he's supposed to feel about anything. Forced to grow up far, far too quickly but who is still a little boy.
  • In the end, Basie takes Dainty when he escapes -- not Jim or Frank.
  • In the end, the very young pilot who saved Jim's life gets sent off, but the plane won't start.
  • They walk who knows how far, but in the end, Jim ends up back at the camp with the young pilot.
  • Until the kid gets shot. Oh, Jim is so very damaged by this point.
  • And I tear up at the end when Jamie is finally reunited with his parents. A kid so different that they don't recognize him at first.

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