Christian Bale is returning to Asia - and no, that's not a spoiler for The Dark Knight Rises.
Bale headlines the upcoming flick The Flowers of War, an adaptation of Geling Yan's inspired-by-real-events historical novel "13 Flowers of Nanjing". It is said to be the most expensive cinematic project ever produced by China (costing some $100 million) and will be the country's submission for Best Foreign Language Film in this year's Oscar competition.
Flowers of War was helmed by Zhang Yimou, a Chinese filmmaker well-renowned for his work on moving period dramas like Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, and To Live. However, over the past decade, more moviegoers in the U.S. have become familiar with Yimou for his work on acclaimed hyper-realistic martial arts tales like Hero and House of Flying Daggers. That's not to mention, he also served as the artistic director for the 2008 Olympics Games Opening Ceremony in Beijing.
Yimou's latest cinematic creation looks like a stylistic hybrid of his previous work - mixing the more gritty and realistic design of his historical dramas with the impressively colorful and symbolism-heavy visuals of his action fare. In the film's international theatrical preview, most of the W.W. II battle imagery is reminiscent of a film like Saving Private Ryan.
See what we mean by watching the international trailer for The Flowers of War below:
Since that preview doesn't really explain the actual Flowers of War plot, here is an official synopsis:
In 1937, Nanking stands at the forefront of a war between China and Japan. As the invading Japanese Imperial Army overruns China’s capital city, desperate civilians seek refuge behind the nominally protective walls of a western cathedral. Here, John Miller (Bale), an American trapped amidst the chaos of battle and the ensuing occupation takes shelter, joined by a group of innocent schoolgirls and thirteen courtesans, equally determined to escape the horrors taking place outside the church walls. Struggling to survive the violence and persecution wrought by the Japanese army, it is an act of heroism which eventually leads the seemingly disparate group to fight back, risking their lives for the sake of everyone.
Judging by the trailer and that plot synopsis, The Flowers of War is part inspirational war drama, part redemption tale for Bale's character - who clearly has somewhat of an unscrupulous past to account for. That's the sort of complex character arc that the (almost) always reliable Oscar-winner handles with ease, which bodes well for Yimou's new film. Plus, the picturesque cinematography and excellent production design seem reason enough to make this one worth checking out on the big screen.
Fair warning, though - only about 40% of the movie is in English, while the rest is Japanese and Mandarin. So don't go see The Flowers of War if you're the type who loathes reading subtitles ... though, honestly, if you're interested in watching a foreign film like this, chances are good you don't mind a little reading. ;-)
We'll let you know when The Flowers of War snags an official U.S. theatrical release date.