Empire of the Sun

Synopsis: Based on J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, tells the story of a boy, James Graham, whose privileged life is upturned by the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, December 8, 1941. Separated from his parents, he is eventually captured, and taken to Soo Chow confinement camp, next to a captured Chinese airfield. Amidst the sickness and food shortages in the camp, Jim attempts to reconstruct his former life, all the while bringing spirit and dignity to those around him.
Genre: Drama, History, War
Director(s): Steven Spielberg
Production: Warner Home Video
  Nominated for 6 Oscars. Another 12 wins & 10 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
153 min

Jamie! Jamie, off the grass! Off the grass! Nice plane finish! - Which side will win the war? - Ours, of course. - Oh, that war. - Well, China isn't our war. We're awfully lucky. - Living here, having everything. - Naughty! The harder I work, the luckier we get. I only meant lucky. Luckier than him. We're luckier than most. He's luckier than some. Out of the way. Chip across the water. The Japanese will win. They've got better planes and braver pilots. I may join the Japanese Air Force. For heaven's sake! Father, look! Zero Sen! It's my plane! Zero Sen! Amah, I'll have... ...the butter biscuits. Mrs. Graham, she... ...not want you eat before bed. You have to do what I say. --backed by reinforcements into Malaya.... ....certain to influence Japan against further military action. As Far East tensions grow, British nationals evacuate... ...for Australia and India. A steamer left Shanghai yesterday with 450 British on board... ...to Hong Kong. A third of occupied China's British community... ...estimated at 15,000, has left in recent weeks. Little hope of progress remains... ...between Roosevelt and the Japanese ambassador. Singapore revealed that Japanese forces in Indochina... ...have reached the strength of perhaps 50,000. Hello... ...Ace. - I was dreaming about God. - What did he say? Nothing. He was playing tennis. Perhaps that's where God is all the time. It's why you can't see him. I don't know about God. - Good night, Jamie. - Perhaps he's our dream... ...and we're his. Go to sleep. It's the Lockwoods' party tomorrow. Can I take my glider? Dream of flying. Mother... ...if God is above us, does it mean up, like flying? Good night. - Mistress, very beautiful. - Thank you, Amah. Off we go. Jamie, behave yourself. Thank you, Yang. Right, squeeze up. Mind the plane. Prop it against the seat. Right, Yang. Settle down, Sinbad! Take the Wang Pu Road. Let's avoid the crowds. - See you back on board. - See you, Charlie. Green apples! Green apples! No mama. No papa. No whiskey soda. Slow down. Checkpoint coming up. Hello, darling. Lovely to see you. - Big kisses. - There he is. - Leave Shanghai while you can. - They leave us alone. Lockwood's invited a Chink. Sorry, but don't mind him. - English humor? - Scottish whiskey. Are our days numbered? All our days are numbered. Ours higher than yours. You've been in Shanghai 100 years. It's only an incident. The Japanese, four years. Nothing. Long enough to spoil your harvest and steal what's left of it. A million Chinese peasants are trying to enter Shanghai. The Japanese get hungry too. We have the guns, the planes, and 500 million fighting back. - We'll be here after every war. - Here's to that. I hope we'll be here too. Always delighted to return hospitality. - Very good. Utterly convincing. - Thank you. Zero? Nakajima. Two machine guns. I rely on you for keeping up-to-date on the war. Especially military aviation. - I hear you resigned from the Scouts. - I'm now an atheist. - Where are you going? - To see something! Your boy tells me he's an atheist. Always thought he was. - Chow time. - Thank you. Enemy aircraft sighted! He's on my tail! On my tail! Stand still, John. Don't run. Come on, Jamie. You're missing the party. - I left my plane. - Never mind. - Don't look back. - Thanks. They're waiting for something to happen. - They didn't look angry. - It's not anger. It's patience. - Is it time to close ranks? - Get Mary and the boy out. Somewhere safe. Singapore? We're moving into the hotel. - Why? - To see how things are going. I don't want you two alone in the house. I didn't mean it. It was a joke. Keep away from the window. Get dressed. Do what Mother tells you. We're leaving. I am dressed. - Am I going to school? - There's no school today. We'll see if Yang can take us home. Never mind the suitcase. Come on! - Taxi! Over here! Taxi! - Excuse me! Good heavens, this is ridiculous! - Keep holding my hand! - Stop shoving me! Stop! - Excuse me! Excuse me! - Yang! Yang, get us to the waterfront. Jamie, for God's sake, sit down! Jamie, get out of the car. Quickly! - What will we do? - Get out. Perhaps there'll be a boat. Sorry. Max was right. Don't push me! Hold on to him! Stay together! Hang on to Jamie! Jamie, don't let go! My plane! Mum? Mum? Mum! Mummy! Go home. I'll find you there! Go home! Mummy! Mother! Mother! Father! What do you think you're doing? Where's my mother and father? Come on, man! Come on, kid! Come on! Wait! Wait! Come on! Wait! Please! Excuse me, everyone. I surrender. "I surrender. I surrender. I surrender." No mama! No papa! No whiskey soda! American boy? - American boy? - English. English? I'm waiting for my chauffeur. English boy. English boy, you come now. Thank you. You come now. - You come now. - No! No! English boy! I surrender! I surrender. Please! Please, sir! I surrender! Excuse me, sir. My name is James Graham. I'm British. I'd like to surrender, please! Please! Please, I'm British. I'd like to surrender. Please, sir. Please! English boy! I surrender! Please! Help me! Help me! I'm British! Help me! - Help me! - Stop running. Please! No! Please! Help me! Help me! Hello. Kid. Kid, you okay? Kid, you all right? I think so. Where do you live? I'm waiting for my parents. They've been delayed. Delayed? Some kind of crazy British kid. What's your name? James Graham. I'm writing a book on contract bridge. Are you with the American fleet? American fleet? It looks like you almost lost your shirt. Maybe I can help you find your parents. I know just the man. Do you know General Winter? My father does. My father's met important people. Do you know my father? He owns a textile mill on Szechwan Road. Mr. Lockwood? He's with the British Association. Perhaps you don't know anyone. How about Louis Charles and Michael of the Avenue Foch gang? Know about psychic bidding? It's in my book. Let's say you need three diamonds. You just think three diamonds. Then your partner, when he gets four aces... ...he shouts and you put down the.... You put down your aces and then.... I can't remember it now. Probably my parents are on a ship to Hong Kong. Then they'll send for me. My father will give you a reward. He gave a taxi driver $5 for bringing me home from Hankow. Ever been to England? Kid, you're starting to get on my nerves. Look what I found under my truck. I'm sorry already. Come on in, boy. I don't know whether he's hungry or crazy. You look like you need to lie down. My father has a cotton mill at... ...Pootung. - He'll be ingratiated to you. - Ingratiated. That's a fine word. He once gave a taxi-- Come here. In a minute. Your tongue's running away. Now that is a well-kept set of teeth. Someone has paid a lot of bills for that sweet mouth. Frank, you'd be surprised how people neglect their kids' teeth. Basie, I got you three. I wasn't able to sell any goddamn portholes. Those Hankow merchants... ...they're charging $10 for a bag of rice. Cathedral School too. Cathedral? What's he, some kind of priest? The Cathedral School. It's a school for taipans. You must know some important people, son. What do they call you? I once met Madame Sun Yat-Sen. She didn't call me anything. I was 3. Madame Sun? I was presented. - Presented. - You two keep getting presented. We'll be up to our asses in junk, eating rats when the Japs walk in. The Japs are not looking for us. Nantao Creek is full of cholera. They've got more sense. It's a changed world. Even if I sell this stuff... ...there wouldn't be enough to get a sampan upriver. We'd have to strip the Queen Mary! So we don't have any rice for you. Let's leave the boy alone. All these new words and now this. Fancy candy? - What did you say your name was? - Jamie. I'm building a man-flying kite... ...and writing a book on contract bridge. Jim. A new name for a new life. Jim's parents got picked up with all the other Brits... ...and now Jim's looking for them. Don't worry about Frank, he always eats after me. Don't you, Frank? I always eat after you, Basie. Because I think for us both. Jim, chew your food. Chew every mouthful six times to get the benefit. Frank, we might do all right in one of those camps. It doesn't look like we'll be leaving Shanghai soon. You're a tired boy, Jim. Where am I gonna sleep? Shanghai Jim. Find any gold teeth in there? Buying and selling, Frank. You know. Life. Okay, sit. Sit. Make a muscle. - Why can't he sell me? - Because nobody wants you. You're worth nothing. Skin and bone. Pretty soon, you'll be sick all the time. First, I could show you some rich pickings. Hundreds of houses left empty. Is that right? I'll show you the houses I lived in before Frank found me. They were luxuriant! Luxuriant? You had good sense being born there. It was good living. There certainly was good living! There was opulence! Opulence. All right. We'll go and take a look at some of these houses. Let's go, Frank. Opulence. That one has whiskey, gin and a white piano. That one has whiskey, gin.... - Whiskey and a radiogram. - What about the boarded one? It has a mirrored dance floor, radiogram, fountain... -...and crystal chandeliers. - Crystal chandeliers? - I think they were crystal. - You're tired. What about cash? - Say, what about a little money? - I did see some money. Piles of notes on the table. I'm taking you there. Turn right here. I knew she'd come back. Take it easy. Mother! - Damn it, they're Japs. - I see. Back out. I can't back out! There's no reverse! - Just go forward. - Come on! Jesus Christ, Frank. I want these back when they're done. Basie.... Engine number two on fire. On fire, come in. Come in, Red Dog Leader. Red Dog Leader, come in. Adjusting propeller? Red Dog Leader. Engine two on fire. On fire, on fire, on fire.... It's just a little fever. Don't worry. We've all had it. Do you feel better now? It's perfectly all right. I can wash it. Excuse me. There's been a mistake. It may have been my fault. I'm terribly sorry. Attention, prisoners! For camp transport, assemble outside. Outside. Make one line. Number one group of prisoners to gate. Prisoners, number one truck. Have you forgotten the cutlery? No, I haven't. You can't drink water from here. People are dying of dysentery. But we can drink boiled water. Boiled water? Many thanks, Basie. You're welcome, Jim. You've got nice manners. I appreciate that. Now it's chow time. Get in line. Keep the ball in play, first in line. I think your father would agree. Actually, he would agree. After the war, you two should play tennis. I want you to get Mrs. Partridge's potato while you're there. I think she died, Basie. She died, but didn't hand in her dinner pail. Okay, go. Go on. Hurry. And, Ace, don't forget to bow to the sergeant. We gotta get out of here. The camps are full. It's our bad luck to be taken to this pit. The Japs haven't got enough camps for all of us. This is just disgusting. Get some water. Come on, children. She's with God now. What are you doing, Basie? Looks like your size, Jim. I don't want her shoes. Basie, don't. I don't want them. - I don't want them. - Somebody will. Basie, leave her! Fine! I don't want her shoes! Stop it. Leave her. Leave her! Stop it. I don't want her shoes! Pipe down. It's the lorry. The lorry! Come on! Come on. Come on! Don't you see? This place is to see who dies! Healthy ones go. Sick stay. Tell him who we are, then-- We don't say anything. Just look him in the eye. - Name? - George Flynn. - Name? - Summers. Excuse me. - I'm a doctor. Let me through. - Here, that's not fair! I'm a British citizen! You can't do this! No! I'm with them! - Please! - Please! Paul. Your name Paul? Get your sister to smile for me. I'll show you a magic trick. Don't leave me! Take me with you, Basie! Listen, Basie! Take me with you! I can't stay here! I'll work for you. I'll do anything! Take me with you! - Soochow. - Soochow! I've been there lots of times. Straight in that direction! Head straight in that direction. My parents were members of the country club. Straight that way. I've lived here my whole life! I know my way everywhere. I can speak-- Soochow! Here we go! Nice pair of golf shoes. A friend left them to me. You wouldn't want a watch, would you? No. Sorry. Now do you know where we are? We're here, okay? We have to turn left here. We have to turn left, okay? You do what I say or we'll never get to Soochow. And then you'll be shot. I look after him for his daddy. - You're American, are you? - Definitely. I worked underground for the Kuomintang. As a conjurer? That must be the camp. We'll be living right by the airfield. - I don't see a camp. - Over there. See? Those huts at a distance. What do I do with this? They want us to carry stones! Please, on the truck is a sick old man. Please.... On the truck, there's an old man. - No, no, no. - Please! Papa! Papa! I'm all right. - Use your wedge! - That boy, running wild! Spends most of his time at the 19th hole. You'll be blackballed by the country club, Jim. Hello, Jim. That's a splendid cabbage. Thanks. Now number seven for the sketch. "Fare thee well: 'tis partly my own fault which death or absence--" "Stay, gentle Helena, hear my excuse." That's not fair! Give us our marbles back. Give us our marbles back! At least one more chance. Mrs. Phillips! Mrs. Gilmour! Dr. Rawlins, I've got my homework. Can you do this? Now don't speed up. Keep the rhythm. She's gone, Dr. Rawlins. She just looked at me. She looked at me! I've done it! I can bring her back to life! Watch her eyes. I can do it again. Watch! She thought she was dying in England. Stop it, Jim! You pumped some blood into her brain, just for a moment. Give the mosquito net to Mr. Radik. Just give it to him. You give the mosquito net to whoever's dying next? Future passive. "I shall be loved." - It's like losing the war, dying. - "They were being loved." - Can I have his shoes when he's dead? - You pragmatist. "You will have been loved." We have to beat them. - Who? - The Japanese. It's how we'll win, refusing to die. - What happens when war ends? - Do you want it to end? If we stay in the camps, the Japanese will look after us. We're an embarrassment to them. They can't feed us much longer. They'll fight the Americans. - You admire the Japanese? - They're brave. - That's important? - If you want to win a war. We don't want them to win. I know. Remember, we're British. I've never been there. Put that down. Tomorrow, gerunds. What about English? Think of it as the antidote. We are never sure of sorrow Joy was never sure Today will die, tomorrow Time stoops to no man's lure With love grown-- Learn it as a poem. It's not just a string of words. - Would you look at Mr. Radik? - Yes, of course. Get those from the hospital garden? I have to give Basie something-- Good thing you're friends. He's a survivor. Because he only drinks boiled water. You'll wear yourself out looking after everyone. Keeps himself busy, doesn't he? - The caterers are arriving. - I'll be there! Won't taste the same without you. Wait for me! - What about mines? - Get out of here. - Maybe the Japs put down some mines. - Hey, boss. Boss! - Boss, it's the kid. - Come in, kid. - Would you like a Hershey bar? - Please! So would I. Have you got one? Stop breathing so much. There ain't enough air. There isn't enough air for you in China. - Here are your clothes. - Better than the Shanghai laundry. - Did you get a cork? - I got one. Good boy. - That's fine. - I've never seen that one. What year? - '45. - '45? How'd you get that? I subscribe. It has Packard, Studebaker, Jell-O. Things from home. - Can you get me a sewing needle? - I'll try. - What's that? - It's a trap. Get out of here. It's all right. You're almost one of us. You see that Mustang? - It's the Cadillac of the sky. - That's right. B-29s too. B-29s? The Super fortress. A hemisphere defense weapon. Where from? Okinawa. Philippines. Tokyo's in bombing range now. - Tokyo? - Time to think of going home soon. We'll have to leave the camp? One side feeds you, the other tries to kill you. It's turned around. It's all timing. - Tell me when it's time? Promise? - Promise. It'd be simpler to live here. You've the British dorm to go to when they're sick of you. They are sick of me. The British dorm's so lethargic. Will you let me? This'll be the place on Thanksgiving. I'll have pheasant. Pheasant? Just made the traps. Works like a noose. Stick out your arm. Neat. I've seen no pheasants, have you? - Outside the wire. - Which wire? - Our wire. - That close? At the edge of the airfield, across the canal. An American initiative. Whoever delivers gets the gravy. How's your friend, Dr. Schweitzer? I brought Amy Matthews back to life for a minute. That's worth a Reader's Digest. Increase your word power. - I got a new one today: pragmatist. - Good word. If I set the traps, could I live here? - It's a consideration. - Take me with you? Frankly, it's a tossup now between you and Dainty. Take me! Give me a good reason I should. I'm your friend. - Chow truck's here. - Mr. Maxton keeps my place. They cut the bloody rations! - Don't worry. I'll get yours. - You're just like your father. They cut our rations in half! I'll get ours. You sit down. You cut the bloody rations! You cut them! I've got yours, Mr. Maxton. I've got some! I've got some! Hello, everybody. - Sit there. - Eat it up, please. The rations have been cut. They're like animals. That's above average, but the trend is down. - Must you, Jim? - Sorry. Some of us will die just before we're saved, so use everything. - You'll miss this camp after the war. - Will I? I'll locate my parents when the people in the camps come out. - I'll tell my dad you looked after me. - Think I'll get the reward? - What reward? - You told everyone. I was much younger then. Why'd the Japanese close the school? To punish the grownups. I wonder how you'll take to school in England. It might be a bit strange. The best teacher's the university of life. For heaven's-- Could we finish our meal? We know your views on the university of life. - We should eat the weevils. - I know. Dr. Rawlins told you. - He said we need the protein. - Yes, he's right. We should all eat the weevils. Do you believe in vitamins? Strange child. Perhaps it's time you moved into the men's dormitory. You're not 12 anymore. The Americans are over Nantao again. They're bombing the Shanghai docks! Coney Island pilots. - What was that? - A 29 going down. - A 200-pounder. - That was close. - Too close for Nagata. - He won't like that. What's happening, doctor? Reprisals, and damned silly it is too. - Keep the patients from the windows. - Yes, doctor. Get away! This is British food! Leave it alone! This is our food. Get away! Guards! Mines. That was a mine. I told you. Somebody lobbed a grenade. Say, Basie, I bet he hits a mine. I bet you there are no mines. You can walk right through. You got a bet. So far, so good. He's seen something. Jim's a black cat. That's a dead boy, Basie. I'll give you odds. My harmonica... ...and my next meal against your wristwatch. You're on, my friend. I double my bet. My next two meals. - You'll lose a lot of weight. - What else you betting? - My Life. - Who's on the cover? - Two cigarettes on the kid! - Sunglasses on Nagata! Keep going, sarge! - The lucky kid. - Cleaned me out. - Hello, Jim. - Hello, Nina. - Would you like a Hershey bar? - Yes. So would I, kid. You got one? Don't let me down, kid. You're an American now. How you doing, Frank? The river's east. You can go up the bank or up the middle... ...or go north of east, but you gotta go across canals. It doesn't say if it's buildings or what. Where'd you get a map? It's a cork and needle? - A compass that actually works. - Put it down. - Is it time? - No, I'll tell you when. - You won't forget? - Fat chance. - I almost feel human. - Without me, you'd have no compass. No, without you I wouldn't have the needle. The best way is across the river. Jim, the curtain. Jim, come here. You're in charge of my stuff. You see this mosquito net? See? What does that tell you? Rawlins is on the take. - You're so clever, Basie. - Yeah. Only cost me two batteries. How are you feeling? I've had worse. I was beaten by a stoker once. Were you a stoker? Ship's steward. Shanghai-Frisco line. Why did he beat you? Shanghai-Frisco will be the trip now. Huh, Jim? Basie, where do you live? Here. No, I mean after the war. Somewhere else. Until you find a place, you could live at Amherst Avenue. I'd like you to come and meet my parents. We could fill up the pool... ...and we'll eat three times a day. You're not feeling sorry for me, are you? - No one feels sorry for you, Basie. - That's right. - And you always eat first. - You said it, kid. I've been thinking about going upriver. I know. Listen-- The plan is, we're going to get a sampan. Take it up the Yangtze estuary. Rendezvous with some Hakka friends. Are they proper pirates, you mean? Let's just call them gentlemen of fortune, shall we? Did you ever see... -...the Hell Drivers in Shanghai? - Yes. On the news reels. I saw them crash through a burning wall. That's what I'm going to call our little outfit. With 2 50 calibers... ...we are going to be the lords of the Yangtze. Actually, that may be a better name. It's at the beginning and end of war that we have to watch out. In between, it's like a country club. But you gotta know how to stay balanced and make the right friends. Because this war is definitely winding down. And after that? After that... ...I retire in luxury, start a barber college.... What are you doing here? I told you to look out for my stuff. They were bigger than me. - Look who's here. - Heard they had you under the net. Cleaned up your room. Stay with me, darling! - Get everybody inside, quick! - Stay away from the buildings! Oh, God. Please, no! Go! P-51, Cadillac of the sky! P-51, Cadillac of the sky! Jim, get off the roof! Horsepower! Get down, Jim. Go on, get down! P-51! Aren't they beautiful? - Get down! - I touched them! I felt their heat! I can taste them. Oil and cordite. Come back to the hospital. Remember how we helped to build the runway? If we'd died like the others, our bones would be in the runway. - In a way, it's our runway. - No, it's their runway, Jim. Try not to think so much. Try not to think so much! I can't remember what my parents look like. I used to play bridge with my mother in her bedroom. She used to comb her hair. I'd watch her. She had dark hair. What's happening? What's happening? The guards are leaving! They're taking us upcountry. They're moving us to Nantao! The Japanese say there's food there. One suitcase! We leave in one hour! One suitcase! One suitcase! They've got our rations at Nantao. He's gone. Him and Dainty. He's gone? He's escaped? He can't have. He promised me! He knew it was time. - Where am I gonna go? - We'll all have to leave now. He knew it was time. He knew it was time. Boy. Difficult boy. Just look... ...later here for escort! Jim, where's my husband? Where's Mr. Victor? We are civilians. Listen to me. I am a British doctor. They are my responsibility! No, we must have rest and food. We're going upcountry, Jim. Will there be food there? There's none here. Mrs. Victor, we're going upcountry. Come on, Jim. Don't go. It's better here. You'll die here. Don't worry, Mr. Maxton. Pretend you're dead, Mrs. Victor. Mrs. Victor. Surrender reached the Japanese in a broadcast by Hirohito. He said Japan will endure the unendurable and suffer greatly. The war minister and others committed suicide outside the palace. Japan is devastated, destroyed in spirit... ...as Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been destroyed. More than 100,000 people were killed... ...in two single-bomb explosions, which ended the Pacific War. The Russian declaration of war... ...has sent a million soldiers into Manchuria. Tokyo was hit with a dawn-to-dusk raid by 1500 B-29 bombers. But Japan's war was lost. Her goal to create... ...a new empire incinerated in a flash... ...hotter than the sun. Everyone stands in awe of the new super-weapon. Only a few scientists knew the power in splitting the uranium atom. It reached us in a shock wave... ...and a white light: the atom bomb. Each of the two bombs... ...had the power of 20,000 tons of explosives. Nagasaki is Japan's gateway to China... ...just 500 miles from Shanghai. I saw that! I saw it! I saw it! The white light. I thought it was Mrs. Victor's soul going to heaven. Bastard! He gave me a mango. I'll give you a whole fruit salad! There's Frigidaires falling from the sky! - He was my friend! - He was a Jap! The war's over! You walked all the way here from Nantao Stadium? What did you see? Rich pickings? Crystal chandeliers, cocktail bars... ...white pianos? I learned a new word today. Atom bomb. It was like a white light in the sky. Like God taking a photograph. I saw it. I can bring everyone back. I can bring everyone back. Everyone. I can bring everyone back. Everyone. I can bring everyone back. - Didn't I teach you anything? - Yes! You taught me people will do anything for a potato. Three years with him? Come on. I'll take you back to your dad. We'll fill the pool and eat three meals a day. Kid, you want a Hershey's bar? Yes, please, Basie. I surrender. Come along. Off you go. Gather in, children. Come along. Mum? Ju-- Julie! Jamie? Jamie.

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Tom Stoppard

Sir Tom Stoppard OM CBE FRSL (born Tomáš Straussler; 3 July 1937) is a British playwright and screenwriter, knighted in 1997. He has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, finding prominence with plays such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul, The Real Thing, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil, The Russia House, and Shakespeare in Love, and has received one Academy Award and four Tony Awards. Themes of human rights, censorship and political freedom pervade his work along with exploration of linguistics and philosophy. Stoppard has been a key playwright of the National Theatre and is one of the most internationally performed dramatists of his generation. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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