Christian Bale makes an impressive debut in Steven Spielberg’s saga about a British child taken prisoner by the Japanese after they invade Shanghai in World War Two.
Based on JG Ballard’s autobiographical novel and told from the child’s eye-view, the story affirms the resilience of children as it follows Bale in his transition from pampered 11-year-old public schoolboy to resourceful camp urchin.
Bale gives an astonishingly natural performance and is well supported by John Malkovich as a crafty Yank, Miranda Richardson as a frustrated British wife and Nigel Havers as the camp’s overworked doctor – and watch out for an early screen appearance by Ben Stiller.
Undervalued on its original release, this combination of epic war story and Boy’s Own adventure is an amazing spectacle.
Highlights include the Fall of Shanghai and Bale’s ecstatic first sight of a sleek Mustang plane (‘P-51 – Cadillac of the skies!’).