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Copy of Empire of the Sun
Transcript of Copy of Empire of the Sun
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Tells the story of a affluent young boy’s struggle for survival during the Japanese occupation of China in World War II
Based upon the semi-biographical book of the same title by J.G. Ballard, though much of the account was dramatized by the author
Trailer Summary The movie starts by introducing us to Jamie Graham a wealthy British boy who has lived his whole life in Shanghai with his mother and father.
We are quickly introduced to the complex political situation of Shanghai. China has been at war with Japan since 1937(Second Sino-Japanese War) however the war was going badly for the Chinese and Japan occupied much of eastern China.
Jamie and his family are downtown when the Japanese attack and take Shanghai from the Chinese. He becomes separated from his parents and then returns to the his family’s home but the house is empty.
Jamie heads to Shanghai where amongst the chaos he meets Basie, an American sailor who feeds him and calls him “Jim”.
Together Basie and Jim are captured and taken to Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center as POWs.
After surviving there for a time both Jim and Basie are moved to the Soochow Creek internment camp.
They are kept here until 1945 and by the time it seems that the war is about to come to an end both Basie and Jim enjoy good living in the camp as a result of an extensive trading network.
Within the camp many stories begin to develop. One is Basie begins to start planning an escape from the camp using Jim’s help. Also Jim begins to develop a relationship with some of the Japanese including a Japanese boy who lives just outside the camp. Jim also begins to idolize the Japanese pilots and the bravery they display as they get deployed from the nearby airstrip.
As the war rages on the American’s eventually commit to an air attack against the Soochow internment camp. Basie escapes without Jim during the attack.
The Japanese soldiers running the camp are forced to evacuate the camp and lead the occupants to Nantao Stadium where the Japanese are keeping the spoils of their conquest against China. Here Jim escapes by playing dead.
After he escapes Jim heads back towards the Soochow camp but not until after he sees one of the nuclear bombs explode in Japan from far away.
On his way back to the camp canisters from the Red Cross begin to fall from the sky holding food and supplies.
When Jim gets back to the Soochow camp he encounters the Japanese boy who lived outside the camp during his stay there.
Basie and the other American’s who escaped with him then reappear; they have been looting the Red Cross canisters that are falling from the sky.
Basie and the American’s cannot understand why Jim would be talking to the Japanese boy and shoot him to defend Jim.
Jim refuses Basie’s help and stays at the camp until he is found by American soldiers and eventually returned to his parents.
Ranking Characters All of the movie’s characters are from J.G. (Jamie Graham) Ballard’s novel Empire of the Sun
The book is based off his experiences living in Shanghai during the second World War
Although much of the book is fact, the author took certain liberties to make it more entertaining. Also the author is not entirely sure everything in his account is factual because he was experiencing hallucinations caused by starvation and dehydration Jamie “Jim” Graham A 12 year old caught up in the complex political situation of WWII China.
Passionate, intelligent, and a bit eccentric but also very spoiled.
Character is based on the author J.G. Ballard
Portrayed by Christian Bale
Goes through inner turmoil in a struggle for survival. The story revolves heavily around its characters and Jamie is the most interesting of the bunch.
The movie documents his coming of age or his loss of innocence as he becomes more and more aware of the reality of human nature.
Basie An American sailor who gets interned with Jamie.
Teaches Jamie to steal, lie, and survive. The relationship between the two characters is unique because its hard to decide weather Basie cares about Jamie or if he is just looking out for himself.
In one of the final scenes of the movie Jamie refuses Basie’s help as he begins to realize the man has been using him.
Character is based on an acquaintance the author had in the camp in real life.
Portrayed by John Malkovich
Historical Inaccuracies Jim’s full name is Jim Graham Ballard not just Jim Graham.
Certain scenes were added to characterize. For example the scene where Jim attempts to resuscitate his Japanese friend who is shot never really happened.
Basie uses Jim more in the movie/book. In the movie he lies to Jim and sends him past the edge of the camp to look for land mines ( Jim has no idea the danger he is in).
The movie spans over a period of 8 years (1937-1945) but Jamie never seems to get any older.
The setting of the story is World War 2 China and its war torn countryside.
The movie moves from Shanghai to the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center to the Soochow Creek Internment Camp then to Nantao Stadium and finally back to Soochow again.
The movie portrays each of these areas correctly in terms how many people would have been at each, what they looked like, and the geography of each area. Also as the war wages on the landscape becomes more and more barren.
Each location was a stopping point in the author’s real journey during the war Setting Shanghai The movie begins in Shanghai’s suburbs where Jamie enjoys good living with his mother and father.
We quickly learn of Shanghai’s complex situation as Jamie encounters a Japanese military base just outside the property of a family friend.
When Jamie and his parents spend a night in the city they are caught up in chaos as the Japanese army attacks the city. Tanks roll down the streets and people trample each other in a desperate attempt to escape.
The movie does a decent job portraying the city. Clothing, buildings, and other aspects of the city reflect what it would have looked like in 1937 Shanghai.
Soochow Internment Camp Most of the story is set in this internment camp. Serves as an interesting backdrop for the movie.
Food becomes a vital resource in the camp. People fight and steal from each other for food. An example of how precious food and sustenance is in the camp is that Jamie eats a spoonful of bugs because the camp doctor told him it was full of protein.
Another interesting aspect of the camp is the way the Japanese soldiers interact with the prisoners. The movie actually humanizes the soldiers and finds a common humanity between oppressor and oppressed.
The geography of the camp is also accurate. Very rocky, right beside an air base.
Correct amount of people seem to be occupying the camp, all of the POW’s are Western similar to Jamie.
Historical Inaccuracies In the Shanghai street battle scene, some business signs contained names that were Romanized instead of the Wade-Giles or traditional systems that would have been used at the time. In other words the business signs were the wrong font.
In the chaotic street scene in Shanghai Jamie passes a posted bill advertising the movie Gone with the Wind. While the movie did premiere in 1939, that particular and most famous poster did not appear until 1967, during its re-release.
The British ship in the Shanghai harbour that begins the attack on Shanghai is a destroyer, battleships that were launched in the mid 1950s, some 14 years after the film takes place.
In one scene in the movie Jamie witnesses a huge bright light flashing in the sky and later finds out it was a nuclear blast from one of the atomic bombs. He could not have witnessed the atomic bomb explosion in Japan with anything approaching the detail shown in the film. The distance from the Chinese mainland to Nagasaki, at its nearest point (roughly 475 miles), is further than the distance from the Trinity test site in New Mexico to Denver, Colorado (roughly 450 miles.) The distance from mainland China to Hiroshima is even further (roughly 640 miles.) It would have been little more than a dim glow on the horizon.
Cross-cultural Interaction The interaction between the Japanese soldiers and the prisoners of the camp is very interesting, in particular the way Jamie interacts with the soldiers.
On various occasions throughout the story Jamie encounters Japanese soldiers. The first time is before he is ever separated from his parents when he encounters a Japanese camp just outside of Shanghai. When he first gets to the camp he has a touching moment with three Japanese pilots who salute him. He also becomes friends with a Japanese boy who lives just outside the camp who shares his love of flying. The final relationship Jamie forms with the Japanese is between him and Sergeant Nagata who actually seems to respect him.
I found the portrayal very realistic and very human. Instead of depicting the two sides as enemies or black and white he reveals a common bond between the two sides. Underneath all this conflict they are both human.
Historical Inaccuracies I found very few inaccuracies in the portrayal of the cross cultural interactions. However all of these interactions are based on the book which may have been subject to dramatization.
Despite this the relations between the two sides felt realistic especially considering Jamie was a child and would have received kinder treatment from the soldiers.
Airplanes The only important mode of transportation in the story are the planes.
Planes play a big role in the movie; firstly Jamie is constantly dreaming of flying and even wants to be a pilot when he grows up. Also the Soochow Internment Camp is beside a air base in use by the Japanese. Finally American P-51’s attack the Soochow camp which forces an evacuation that allows Jamie to escape captivity.
The planes in the movie are accurate to what would have been used by American and Japanese pilots.
North American P-51 Mustang Nakajima Ki-43 Historical Inacuracies American long-range, single-seat fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and in several other conflicts.
Max speed of 487 mph
Had six 0.50 caliber (12.7mm) M2 Browning machine guns
In one of the most iconic scenes of the movie "Cadiliac of the Skies!"
Outclassed most other fighter planes in its prime, including the Japanese Ki-43
Single-engine land-based tactical fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II.
Light and easy to fly, and became legendary for its combat performance in East Asia in the early years of the war. It could outmaneuver any opponent, but did not have armor or self-sealing tanks, and its armament was poor.
Two fixed, forward-firing 12.7 mm (.50 in) Ho-103 machine guns
Max speed of 530 mph'
Plane used by Japanese pilots who took off from the Airstrip next to the Soochow Internment Camp
Very few historical inacuracies in terms of air warfare
The P-51 was rarely used against the Japanese (more against the Germans in WWII) but was eventually used near the end of the war in attacks like Iwo Jima so it would have been possible for the P-51's to attack Soochow.
Near the beginning of the movie Jamie finds a crashed plane in perfect condition and flat on its belly. This would have been unlikely . Based on a book which was not entirely historically accurate and was subject to dramatization.
Great acting and character development. Especially Christian Bale’s character.
The movie starts to drag on near the end and a lot of the movie has no dialogue at all.
Cinematography, camera work, and music were all phenomenal.
Paid too much attention to Jamie’s character and not enough to the storyline.
Did a great job putting you into World War 2 China.