Empire of the Sun (film)

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Empire of the Sun is a 1987 American coming of age war film based on J. G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Steven Spielberg directed the film, which stars Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, and Nigel Havers. The film tells the story of Jamie "Jim" Graham, a young boy who goes from living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai, to becoming a prisoner of war in Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center, a Japanese internment camp, during World War II.

Harold Becker and David Lean were originally to direct before Spielberg came on board. Spielberg was attracted to directing the film because of a personal connection to Lean's films and World War II topics. He considers it to be his most profound work on "the loss of innocence".[1] The film was not a box office success, but did receive critical acclaim.



The Empire of Japan had been at war with China since 1937 before declaring war on the United States and the United Kingdom. During the conflict, Jamie Graham (Christian Bale), a British upper middle class schoolboy living in Shanghai, is separated from his parents. He spends some time living in his deserted house and eating remnants of food; eventually, he ventures out into the city and finds it bustling with Japanese troops. Jamie is captured along with Basie (John Malkovich), an American sailor, who nicknames him "Jim". They are taken to Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center in Shanghai; but are eventually moved to Suzhou Creek Internment Camp. By 1945, a few months before the end of the Pacific War, Jim has established a good living, despite the poor conditions of the camp. He has an extensive trading network, even involving the camp's commanding officer, Sergeant Nagata.

Dr. Rawlins, the camp's British director, becomes a father figure to Jim. Through the barbwire fencing, Jim befriends a Japanese teenager, who shares Jim's dream of becoming a pilot. Still idolizing Basie, Jim frequently visits him in the American soldiers' barracks. At one point, Basie charges him to set snare traps outside the wire of the camp and while Jim succeeds, thanks to the help of the Japanese teenager from the other side, the real reason for sending Jim into the marsh was actually to test the area for mines, not to catch game. As a reward, Basie allows him to move into the American barracks with him. Basie then plots to escape.

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