To survive in a world at war, he must find a strength greater than all the events that surround him

“Learned a new word today. ‘Atom bomb.’ It was like God taking a photograph.”

Jim Graham

Empire of the Sun

Release Date: December 25, 1987

Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun—based on author J.G. Ballard's autobiographical novel—stars Christian Bale as Jim, a spoiled young British boy living with his wealthy family in pre-World War II Shanghai. During the Japanese invasion, Jim is separated from his parents and imprisoned in an internment camp. With the often conflicting guidance of a self-centered soldier-of-fortune Basie (John Malkovich) and a caring British doctor (Nigel Havers), Jim learns to survive the war without a retinue of servants at his beck and call.

Empire of the Sun was the first film by a western production company to film in Shanghai since World War II. With sweeping vistas of a city under siege, a terrifying set piece of a young boy being separated from his parents in the crush of a panicked, churning crowd, and the considerable complexities of bringing a sizable crew and the apparatus of a major production to a world previously unseen in Hollywood filmmaking, the film is a contrast of scale with moments both grand and intimate.

Featuring a preternaturally sensitive and emotionally insightful performance by so young an actor—Bale, in his first starring role and appearing in nearly every scene in the film, was only 12 years of age at the time of production—we see Jim transform from a selfish child of privilege to a young man who has suffered the horrors and deprivations of war. The film, and Bale’s performance, are an elegy to a childhood not only lost, but torn violently away from young Jim’s very soul.

About the Film

About the Film

CAST
  • CHRISTIAN BALE,
  • JOHN MALKOVICH,
  • MIRANDA RICHARDSON,
  • NIGEL HAVERS,
  • JOE PANTOLIANO,
  • LESLIE PHILLIPS,
  • MASATÔ IBU
DIRECTOR
  • STEVEN SPIELBERG
SCREENWRITER
  • TOM STOPPARD,
  • BASED ON A NOVEL BY J.G. BALLARD
PRODUCERS
  • STEVEN SPIELBERG,
  • KATHLEEN KENNEDY,
  • FRANK MARSHALL
CINEMATOGRAPHER
  • ALLEN DAVIAU
PRODUCTION DESIGN
  • NORMAN REYNOLDS
COSTUMES
  • BOB RINGWOOD
EDITOR
  • MICHAEL KAHN
COMPOSER
  • JOHN WILLIAMS