A couple weeks ago when we looked at the films eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, we mentioned that a lot of them wouldn't ring a bell because they're from little-known filmmakers starring people you don't know. But that's not completely true: China's entry, "The Flowers of War," is directed by Zhang Yimou ("Hero," "House of Flying Daggers") and stars Christian Bale. And now the first (slightly NSFW) international trailer for the film is out. If it reminds you a little of "Schindler's List" -- but with more action -- than the producers have done their job.
The film is set in China in 1937 during the Nanking Massacre, which saw the invading Japanese army kill (according to China) approximately 300,000 Chinese, as well as rape thousands of women. The subject has recently inspired art-house films such as "City of Life and Death" and "John Rabe," but those films won't have the high profile that "The Flowers of War" will. (Having the guy famous for playing Batman in your movie definitely helps.) In Zhang's film, Bale will play an American priest who protects prostitutes and female students during the invasion.
For those who know Zhang from his hyper-stylized martial arts films, "The Flowers of War" looks a lot more restrained in the period-film/war-movie/inspirational-true-story mold. Because this is an international trailer, there's a little more skin and violence than we normally see in an American trailer, but what definitely comes across is that this will be a big, serious epic in which Bale will do lots of impassioned shouting as he squares off against the Japanese army. When we saw "City of Life and Death," we were blown away by its ability to bring together the gripping battle scenes of "Saving Private Ryan" with the atrocities of "Schindler's List" without any of the sentimentality of those films. We haven't seen "The Flowers of War," but it definitely seems to resemble those two Spielberg movies, albeit in a more conventional way. For better or worse, this looks like a tailor-made Oscar movie. Now let's just hope it's a good one.