Empire of the Sun (1987)

Genres - Drama, War  |   Sub-Genres - POW Drama, War Drama, Childhood Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 9, 1987 (USA)  |   Run Time - 152 min.  |   Countries - Spain, United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Keith Phipps

Those looking for the source of the full-fledged artist behind Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan need look no further than this relatively forgotten Spielberg effort from 1987. Brilliantly utilizing the kids'-eye-view approach honed in E.T. to decidedly different effect, Spielberg captures the terrors and thrills of a wartime childhood separated from every element that had previously allowed life to make sense. A young Christian Bale gives a deeply impressive performance, nicely holding his own against an equally memorable John Malkovich, but it's the tone of the film -- a sense of dreadful wonder in the midst of extreme circumstances, and a detachment that makes Bale's environment seem as alien to viewers as it does to his character -- that makes the most lasting impression. Though not seen as such at the time, this is a major step forward for Spielberg that is well worth rediscovery.