Japanese soldiers, zero fighters, prisoners-of-war, British, prisoner camps, attacks. Ring any bells? I am talking about World War II, which is exactly what this movie is about.
"Empire of the Sun" is another one of Steven Spielberg's wonderful creations. It stars a spoiled young British boy, Jamie, living with his wealthy family in pre-World War II Shanghai. During the Japanese invasion, he is separated from his parents. With the help of a new friend called Basie, he learns to survive without a retinue of servants at his beck and call. By the time Basie and Jamie are tossed into a Japanese prison camp, the boy has picked up enough street smarts and developed enough courage to regard his imprisonment as an exciting adventure. The story ends during the liberation. On the verge of manhood, 13-year-old Jamie will never again return to being the pampered, privileged brat that he once was before he experienced the war.
The movie was a combination of good acting with a good plot. On the average, the film is quite realistic as the situation that Jamie has to go through might be quite similar to some real children that have suffered the effects of the harsh and cruel war. The World War II had torn up countless families, and the Japanese had taken many houses for their own use, leaving the previous owners homeless and nowhere to go. It is sure that many children were separated from their parents only to finally reunite with them when the World War is over.
The movie uses many filming techniques that help to emphasize on what they are trying to say or portray to the audience. Much symbolism is used in this movie too. Many scenes actually present much more than what is shown, and if one does take time to go through the symbolism, the depth of what the scenes are implying may astound you.
In this movie, we can see that from Jamie's point of view, the Japanese soldiers are very much respected by him and are very different from the way they are thought of in real life. In real life, the Japanese soldiers are ruthless and merciless, killing anyone that they feel like killing, sometimes just as a sport, but for Jamie, the movie shows that they are in a way friends. The soldiers had even saluted him at one point, which is totally impossible if it were real life.
There are, however, some scenes that are downright unbelievable. A few examples would be when Jamie runs away from the Chinese boy, they climb from rickshaw to rickshaw, creating a somewhat comical scene that is quite unlikely to happen in real life. There is also a part in the movie where Jamie sees a Japanese fighter plane under repair, with sparks flying about everywhere. He touches it and one of the Japanese soldiers gets ready to shoot from behind him, but so coincidentally, the Japanese fighter pilots return to their planes and salute Jamie when they see him touching it. This scene is one where you would most probably raise your eyebrows in disbelief, but just accept it and get on with the movie. Scenes like this make the movie not as realistic as it could be without it, slightly bringing down the standard of the film. Sometimes, to express contrast between Jamie and the other children, Steven Spielberg seems to use too much make-up on the young boy, making him look half-dead as compared to the rest of the children crowding around him, leading you to wonder what is so different about what Jamie had to go through that the other children did not. This spoils the film a little, making it look fake and surreal.
When considered on the whole, Empire of the Sun is a movie that is definitely worth watching. Once again, Steven Spielberg has worked his magic and another good movie is born.