City of Life and Death
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Within the scope of Asian history, few events carry the ugly and sickening connotations of the Rape of Nanking. Japanese forces invaded that Chinese city on December 9, 1937, and in the six weeks to follow, soldiers raped thousands of women and annihilated hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. Director Lu Chuan directs this black-and-white docudrama account of that horrifying six-week period, with the benefit of an ensemble cast that includes Hideo Nakaizumi as a conscience-stricken Japanese soldier, Fan Wei as the aid to a German humanitarian worker, and Gao Yuanyuan as the head of a… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"It is not an easy film, and perhaps a touch too relentless, but it is a great reminder of how bloody, mad and awful this world can be."
‑ Tom Long, Detroit News
"In almost any form, the story of the Nanking atrocities can leave you profoundly shaken. But Lu Chuan's version may be the most compassionate and emotionally satisfying treatment to date."
‑ John Hartl, Seattle Times
"Reminiscent of exactly the sort of "important war movie" Hollywood makes."
‑ Dan Jardine, Cinemania
"There is real beauty in its effort to comprehend the incomprehensible."
‑ Chris Hewitt (St. Paul), St. Paul Pioneer Press
"There is no way to soften the events presented, even though Lu spares us some documented atrocities that are as bad or worse than what we see. The result is both moving and exhausting."
‑ Andy Klein, Brand X
"Lu Chuan makes this feature film soar by telling the story both through the eyes of the Japanese occupiers and the defenseless Chinese civilians in the ancient capital. It makes the savagery all the more senseless."
‑ David Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle
"Here, in bloodless miniature, is the true obscenity of war."
‑ Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
"...among the greatest war films ever made. Rich in humanist themes and absolutely unflinching in its depiction of the moral chaos and physical violence of war."
‑ Jay Antani, Cinema Writer
"Chinese filmmaker Chuan Lu has tackled a vast and ambitious subject in City of Life and Death. I knew very little about the siege on Nanjing (or Nanking, as Westerners have long referred to it) in 1937; I feel as if I understand it now, in all..."
‑ Leonard Maltin, Leonard Maltin's Picks
"A work of grim art told with relentlessly restless curiosity about the human capacity for survival."
‑ Burl Burlingame, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
"Exquisitely shot in black and white, with a rare attention to detail and dramatic complexity, "City of Life and Death" is a timelessly great film that commands our collective attention."
‑ Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Lu tells the heartbreaking, nearly unbearable story with compassion, controlled fury and unflinching realism."
‑ Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"City of Life and Death puts a convincing image to the abstract history."
‑ Sean Axmaker, Turner Classic Movies Online
"Despite a puzzling, ridiculously benign view of Japanese sex slaves, this is a brutal depiction of the bestiality of the Japanese Rape of Nanjing that is long overdue."
‑ Tony Medley, Tolucan Times
"The most visceral war film since Saving Private Ryan - a portrait of the hopeless in the grasp of a sadistic oppressor."
‑ Tom Meek, Boston Phoenix
More reviews for City of Life and Death on Rotten Tomatoes