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Empire of the Sun (1987)

Now considered a trial run for the more moving, horrifying and involving Schindler’s List (1993), Steven Spielberg’s drama, set in China during the Second World War, is a glossy and rather tame affair, based on JG Ballard’s semi-autobiographical novel.

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When the Imperial Japanese army marches into Shanghai in December 1941, the privileged life which 11-year-old Jim Graham (Christian Bale) enjoys with his family in the city’s International Settlement comes to an end. In the ensuing turmoil, Jim is separated from his parents and ends up in a Japanese internment camp.

As you’d expect from Spielberg, the film has its fair share of heroic moments and scenes that depict the horror of war through the eyes of a child. But, despite the presence of such talents as John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson and stiff-upper-lip Brit Nigel Havers, this seems a rather superficial look at life under occupation.

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Jim Graham
Christian Bale
Basie
John Malkovich
Mrs Victor
Miranda Richardson
Mr Victor
Peter Gale
Dr Rawlins
Nigel Havers
Frank Demerest
Joe Pantoliano
Maxton
Leslie Phillips
Sergeant Nagata
Masato Ibu
Jim’s mother
Emily Richard
Jim’s father
Rupert Frazer
Mr Lockwood
Robert Stephens
Mr Chen
Burt Kwouk
Lt Price
Paul McGann
Dainty
Ben Stiller

Director
Steven Spielberg

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