What a masterpiece by Stephen Spielberg!
"Empire of the Sun," like so many other Spielberg films, tells a coming of age story of a young boy. Ah, but his setting is not Southern California in the 70's or 80's this time.
Instead the story takes place in the Shanghai of WWII. Right before the war, English and Americans lived in luxurious and guarded enclaves of the city.
The hero of the story, Jamie (later Jim), is a spoiled young boy. He reprimands his servants, he questions the existence of God, he drives his loving parents crazy. All changes with the Japanese attack of Shanghai, which separates Jamie from his paretns. At first, it's a bit of a child's dream. He goes back to their mansion, he rides his bike around the house, he does what he pleases. Eventually he returns to the city and tries to surrender to the Japanese. But they don't want him.
He takes up, Oliver Twist like, with two American shady characters (a young John Malkovich and Joe Pantolino). Together they become imprisoned by the Japanese and are eventually sent off to an interment camp.
You see the camp through the eyes of a child. Yes he detests certain aspects-lack of food, grime-but he also takes to other parts. He's free from school. He becomes the child about the camp and spends most days bartering and exchanging goods. He befriends a Japanese or two. (He had admired them prior to the War.) He also shows the isolation of the ex-pat. Though he's called English, he has never been there. He's been put through all this for a country that he has never been to in his life.
I strongly recommend this film to history buffs, particularly those who enjoy WW II films. If you like John Malkovich, you'll love him here.
Yes the movie moves a bit slow at times. But overall, I found it to be a wonderful experience. (The DVD Making Of is also an excellent add-on.)