The Flowers of War (2011)
We find Christian Bale (John), a mortician caught in the middle of the Sino-Japanese war. He barely escapes with his life to Nanjing to prepare the local priest for burial.
How or why he is left in this dangerous situation is never explained, but it is irrelevant to the main plot. John, a professional drunkard and philanderer, is thrust into being the caretaker of the church's surviving all-girl Christian students who are traumatized by the loss of their fellow classmates at the indiscriminate and immoral hands of the Japanese soldiers who shoot anything that moves.
To complicate matters further, a host of equally desperate prostitutes force their way into the church's cellar and take refuge there. The juxtaposition of the naive Catholic girls and the prostitutes adds both drama and humor to the situation.
When the going gets rough, John dons the garb of a priest and is able to use the disguised position for some minor but effective persuasion over the Japanese.
John quickly becomes enamored with one of the prostitutes named Yu Mo (played exquisitely by Ni Ni). The prostitutes are looking for a way out of Nanjing and are hoping John may be of assistance.
Over time, the beauty of Yu Mo and the utter desperation of the Catholic girls turn John into a responsible human being. He makes plans for their escape, but the plan has to be scuttled because the colonel who has the church surrounded by guards, has proclaimed that the girls are ordered to sing at an upcoming party.
The girls are apoplectic at the thought of performing for the Japanese since they had recently nearly been raped by them.
The group forms a counter-plan, a plan that involves extreme sacrifices and bravery.
I thought the film was excellent from every angle -- cinematography, script, dialogue, acting, setting, etc.
The film is also filled with tension and deep, emotional content. I encourage everyone to view this movie, as it is finely crafted and digs deep into the notion of real sacrifice. Even if you hate foreign films with subtitles, give this one a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.