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Empire of the Sun

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Movie Info & Cast


Based on J.G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun stars Christian Bale as a spoiled young British boy, living with his wealthy family in pre-World War II Shanghai. During the Japanese invasion, Bale is separated from his parents. With the help of soldier-of-fortune John Malkovich, Bale learns to survive without a retinue of servants at his beck and call. By the time Malkovich and Bale are tossed into a Japanese prison camp, the boy has picked up enough street-smarts and developed enough intestinal fortitude to regard his imprisonment as an exciting adventure. The story ends during the 1945 liberation: on the verge of manhood, the 13-year-old Bale will never again be the pampered, privileged brat whom we met in the early scenes.~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide


  • Christian Bale
  • John Malkovich
  • Miranda Richardson
  • Nigel Havers
  • Joe Pantoliano
  • Leslie Phillips
  • Masatô Ibu
  • Emily Richard
  • Rupert Frazer
  • Peter Gale

Did You Know?


  • (Cameo) J.G. Ballard: a guest in the masquerade party scene.
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  • Jim could not have witnessed the atomic bomb explosion in Japan with anything approaching the detail shown in the film. The closest point of the Chinese mainland to Nagasaki is about 475 miles away, and Hiroshima is about 640 miles away. Even with no obstacles, the curvature of the earth would allow him to see nothing more than a brief dim glow on the horizon.
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    • [Tossing a pair of sunglasses to Jim as the Japanese army begin to beat him]
    • Basie: I want these back when they're done.
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Empire of the Sun remains a solidly engaging story of heroism in the face of adversity, as filtered through the eyes of a boy obsessed with planes and flight.

Metacritic review by James Berardinelli
James Berardinelli