The Flowers of War (15)

Starring: Christian Bale, Ni Ni

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The Independent Culture

The Rape of Nanking in December 1937 is re-created once again in Zhang Yimou's epic tale of endurance and self-sacrifice.

The murderous brutality of the Japanese occupiers is set against the refuge of the city's Catholic cathedral, where two different sisterhoods are hiding out – one a class of convent girls, the other a gaggle of local prostitutes. Into their midst stumbles an American, John Miller (Christian Bale), a boozy deadbeat who will reluctantly assume the role of pastor to his unexpected flock.

The broad-brush contrasts (innocence and experience, self-indulgence and responsibility), yearning choral music and the long running-time make it a draggy experience, visual flourishes notwithstanding. And it looks very conventional next to Zhang Yimou's best work.