The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Lionsgate - 2011
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 142 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English/Mandarin DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Xinyi Zhang, Tianyaun Huang
Directed by: Zhang Yimou
Music by: Qigang Chen
Written by: Liu Heng & Yan Geling based on Yan Geling’s novel
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 10, 2012
The war torn and dangerous streets of Nanjing in 1937 throw together a group of opposites - a flock of shell-shocked schoolchildren, a dozen seductive courtesans, and a renegade American posing as a priest to save his own skin, or so he thinks - all seeking safety behind a walled cathedral. Trapped by marauding soldiers, over the next few days the prejudices and divides between them will fall away as they unite around a last-ditch plan to protect the children from impending catastrophe.
In 1937, Nanjing stands at the forefront of a war between China and Japan. As the invading Japanese Imperial Army overruns China's capital city, desperate civilians seek refuge behind the nominally protective walls of a western cathedral. Here, John Miller (Bale), an American mortician arrives for the burial of the cathedral’s recently deceased pastor only to find himself trapped/caught up amidst the chaos of battle and the ensuing occupation. He takes shelter, joined by a group of innocent convent students and thirteen fleeing courtesans from a nearby brothel that are equally determined to escape the horrors taking place outside the church walls.
Based on the novel “The thirteen flowers of war” by Yan Geling, The Flowers of war is a story of love, war and discovery as this group of people struggle to survive and come to form a bond that sees them unite in a singular purpose. This is a resonating drama with a visceral edge driven by the violence of war but softened by the innate humanity displayed by a group of women seen as outcasts. I found this to be a stirring and emotive human story as told/seen through the eyes of “Shu” a young teenage school girl who along with her surviving classmates is thrown into the midst of desolation, violence and death in her home city of Nanjing.
Yan Geling co-wrote the script which does an effective job capturing the intrinsic horror of the city’s occupation while establishing a viable connection to the essential characters, primarily Shu, Mo, John and George, within the narrative’s construct. Early in the film the war elements have a potency that helps set the stage for some of the unnerving sequences that are to follow. This isn’t a perfect film, one of the things that didn’t quite gel was the character of John, an American, that I couldn’t help but feel wouldn’t have been able to connect with these girls/women on the emotional level portrayed in the story. There is a scene that attempts to address this but John’s transformation is too abrupt one which cheapens things just a little. I would liked to have seen some of the secondary characters fleshed out a little better which would have broadened the story’s scope.
These are minor complaints that honestly didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the film. The performances by Ni Ni, Xinyi Zhang, and Tianyaun Huang in the roles of Mo, Shu, and George, the boy who takes it upon himself to protect the school girls after the death of the local priest, are terrific. Actually the cast as an ensemble are excellent. Christian Bale can be a little hammy at times but otherwise did fine. The attention to detail in the film’s production is quite good and lends an air of credibility to the story. The Flowers of war is a compelling, sometimes disturbing and evocative drama that speaks to the human condition in its portrayal of how people even under the direst of circumstance can rise to the occasion.
The rating is for strong violence including a sexual assault, disturbing images, and brief strong language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Flowers of war comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 23 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.6 Mbps.
This film has an intentionally stylized visual design that utilizes a muted color scheme that works aesthetically well for the film’s theme and setting. The color range is limited to shades of gray and black with splashes of crimson and muted sepia tones. Warm primary accents are used to break up the film’s monochromatic essence. Fleshtones hold up nicely against the de-saturated chroma and don’t appear unnatural. Uneven light and shading are prevalent. Contrast is spot on which empowers whites and grays without washing away detail. Whites are punchy and grays are multi-staged and deep. I find the quality of the video to be high. It isn’t always razor sharp but it’s cleanly rendered with plenty of subtle refinement and delineation that enhances depth and reveals fine detail in objects, clothing, and physical features. Blacks aren’t inky in depth but are gradationally revealing which combines with excellent detail in low light and shadowy backgrounds to provide a strong sense of dimension.
The high resolution DTS-HD MA surround mix delivers the soundtrack’s elements with aplomb. The higher fidelity inherent in this lossless sound mix is readily apparent. Dynamic range is noteworthy which renders the film’s war/action based sequences with defining impact and energy. Dialogue is presented with crystal clear intonation, full bodied texture, and deep room penetration. Qigang Chen’s music score as well as the beautiful church chorals sound airy, clear and warm. Imaging across the front soundstage is excellent as sounds are integrated with precision. This is an involving surround mix that intelligently utilizes the entire system where appropriate. During the battle sequences the listening position is actively engaged by a mixture of spatial and discretely placed sound effects that place the listener in the heart of the action (listen for the jarring grenade explosion involving the tank in chapter two). Low frequency detail is clean, well articulated and deep as points of contact resonate with palpable impact. This isn’t a bombastic or overly aggressive soundtrack but it’s blend of intricate detail and room filling dynamics make for a first rate home theater experience.
* CIH users should note that the subtitles are within the picture area.*
- (HD) Behind the scenes (five part documentary)
- The birth of The Flowers of war – 21 minutes
- Meeting Christian Bale – 16 minutes
- The newborn stars – 22 minutes
- Hard time during the war – 20 minutes
- Perfection of light and color – 14 minutes
- The birth of The Flowers of war – 21 minutes
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
Based on the novel “The 13 Flowers of war” by Yan Geling, The Flowers of war is a compelling, sometimes disturbing and evocative drama that speaks to the human condition in its portrayal of how people even under the direst of circumstance can rise to the occasion. While it isn’t a perfect film I was drawn in by the engaging nature of the story, strong performances by the young cast, and the excellent production elements. It debuts on Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring rewarding high definition video, superlative 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio sound and a complimentary supplemental package that takes a peek behind the curtain at the making of the film. The Flowers of war is recommended viewing that belongs at the top of your rental queue.
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There are English and Mandarin (English subtitled) soundtracks. Sorry about the confusion..
Thanks .. I'm pretty sure you noted it on the details as you always do so no real confusion with your review .. I searched the Web to find out if it was fully English language and could not find anything .. I just don't care for sub titled films ..
Thanks for the review Ralph!
You're welcome Tom and I agree..
I've got the BD coming from NF .. funny thing was, it showed as DVD only up until yesterday, when the BD suddenly showed in the Q .. I guess I got lucky ..
I could only get the DVD from Netflix, but the PQ and AQ were excellent. I love the production values. Amazing that the huge sets were built from scratch. (the most expensive Chinese film ever made). Only issue I have is that the characters aren't really well developed. Bale's character does a 180 degree about face with little motivation. Perhaps Bale wasn't the best choice for this role. In any case, a terrific war story and well worth a watch.
NF just started carrying the blu ray of this movie within the last day or so. Every once in a while they'll add the blu ray version to their catalog within days of a release of some of their stuff.
I'm not sure Bale was the best they could do for it, especially in the beginning, cuz it looked so forced.
Turned out ok.
Thx for the review- I rented it because of this.
Why waste $ on more cheap stuff, it's like challenging a dragon with a pocket knife.
It's doubful at this point NF will get a BD .. I broke down and got the DVD just because I wanted to watch it .. it's a pretty good DVD transfer ..
That's because it's not a Top 10 kind of film. It's a foreign language title that got little play here in the States. Redbox probably thinks that most people stopping off for a flick that use their service will not rent this kind of film or even want it in HD, sadly.
I'll give it a rent, for sure, but at my local rental place.
Listen up, studios! Just say "NO" to DNR and EE!!
I meant RB .. don't know why I had NF on the brain ..
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