As the Japanese army overpower the Chinese army, John Miller (Christian Bale), an American mortician, heads to a Roman Catholic convent where he is expected to bury the head priest. But with the turmoil going on around he finds the convent has no adults, just one boy and a lot of frightened girls. They are soon joined by a group of prostitutes seeking shelter in the building. Despite only caring about himself John finds himself becoming carer to both the girls and the women, seeking to get them to safety before the Japanese soldiers get their hands on them.
A flawed masterpiece are the words which spring to mind to describe "The Flowers of War" as whilst an undeniably impressive movie with a powerful side it is for me a movie with clear issues which unfortunately prevent it from reaching the heights of being great. And rather surprisingly one of those issues is Christian Bale as during the first half of the movie much of his dialogue is unintelligible spoken in slurs and mumbles which makes it incredibly frustrating to understand what is going on.
Once you manage to get past the hard to follow dialogue the actual storyline to "The Flowers of War" is not hard to follow as we have the shifty John who looks out for number one ending up caring for these innocent girls. Yes that is a familiar theme which has been done in many a movie but then we have this added layer as we have these prostitutes hiding in the convent. I won't say what happens but we get to see massive acts of sacrifice by several characters in the movie which gives it a powerful side.
But here is the other thing about "The Flowers of War", it is a visually arresting movie with scene after scene which has been carefully crafted. Now for me whilst the crafting borders on the spectacular in places some of it seems to go too far especially when it comes to the violence which the girls suffered. It is a fine line between hard hitting and go over board and sometimes it just feels that it has strayed just over the line.
What this all boils down to is that "The Flowers of War" is a powerful movie and a beautifully crafted one. But it has some significant flaws from crossing the line when it comes to being graphic to unintelligible dialogue which prevents it from being the master piece it could have been.