Empire of the Sun ★★★★

It's been so long since I've seen this movie that I couldn't remember much of it at all, so it was all very fresh. In this period there were several films about children in World War II, all from different countries. England gave us Hope and Glory, the most warmly nostalgic of the bunch and probably my favorite "children at war" movie. France gave us Au Revoir les Enfants, also nostalgic but not very warm, and it kept the war in the background. Germany gave us Europa, Europa, which I don't remember as well but it seems more coming of age - a child on the verge of adulthood. Russia gave us Come and See, a harrowing, nightmarish look at war with a terrified child at the center - certainly the best of these films if the least popular. Each of these movies nicely demonstrates how the war assaulted each country's naivete. However, the film that Empire of the Sun most resembles is Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood from 1962. It's also about a boy lost in the war who learns to adapt and thrive in an environment of death while guided by wiser adults. Spielberg's film shows off his knack for storytelling and moves at a brisker pace than any of these other films without feeling rushed and despite being fairly episodic in its structure. It isn't nearly as interesting when John Malkovich isn't around, but young Christian Bale is pretty remarkable and successfully wavers from helpless child to street smart kid. Script by Tom Stoppard.