Scene by scene, The Flowers of War is an erratic and ungainly piece of storytelling, full of melodramatic twists and grotesque visual excesses (a bullet pierces first a stained-glass window and then a girl's neck), which are nonetheless delivered with startling conviction.
—Justin Chang Variety
...individual performances and scenes are striking and masterful, but taken as a whole, it's less a film than a rallying cry of "Our people feel more deeply than yours."
—Tasha Robinson Onion AV Club
This film has too many weak, unconnected strands (what's the subplot about the narrator's father doing here anyway?), too much overtly expositional dialogue, and too unfocused a narrative to really cohere. And then there's that whole matter of expendable whores.
—Andrew Schenker Slant Magazine
Now let me ask you: Can you think of any reason the character John Miller is needed to tell his story? Was any consideration given to the possibility of a Chinese priest? Would that be asking for too much?
—Roger Ebert Chicago Sun-Times
With ,em>The Flowers of War, Zhang mostly just proves that there's no tragedy too terrible that it can't be turned into an operatic pageant - human suffering reduced to visual showmanship.
—Tim Grierson Village Voice
Eventually, it seems, every senseless waste of life gets its own gauzy tear-jerker. That's about the only way to justify The Flowers of War...
—Mike Hale New York Times
...abounds with well-worn movie archetypes and slathers on schmaltz.
—Sheri Linden Los Angeles Times
—Todd McCarthy Hollywood Reporter
Zhang Yimou, one of China's best-known filmmakers, deserves a great big lump of coal in his holiday stocking thanks to his ludicrous soap opera The Flowers of War.
—V. A. Musetto New York Post