Maybe the color palette confines itself to a too small range of gray but it is effective. Maybe a few scenes are overly dramatized for effect but I can hardly imagine anything comparing to the real events that transpired. This isn't a documentary and it's not a perfect film but it is an incredibly moving one. There was a bit of an uproar in China over this film claiming it did not demonize the Japanese enough. A member of the Politburo intervened on behalf of the film to keep it in theaters. There's that to chew on. I honestly can't separate recommending the film from recommending being aware of this ugly bit of history. You could just read a wikipedia entry on the Rape of Nanjing but you could also just watch Dr. Phil or Oprah instead of ever going to the movies. It's about like that.
City of Life and Death is a Chinese film directed by Lu Chuan, marking his third feature film. The film deals with the Battle of Nanjing and its aftermath (commonly referred to as "The Rape of Nanking" or the "Nanking Massacre") during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The film is also known as Nanking! Nanking! or Nanjing! Nanjing!. While originally slated for a 2008 release, the director-general of the Chinese Film Bureau announced in September that the film could be delayed to an early 2009 release.
City of Life and Death takes place in 1937, during the height of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Imperial Japanese Army has just captured the then-capital of the Republic of China, Nanjing. What followed was known as the Nanking Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking, a period of several weeks wherein tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed. The film tells the story of several figures, both historical and fictional, including a Chinese soldier, a schoolteacher, a Japanese soldier, a foreign missionary, and John Rabe, a Nazi businessman who would ultimately save thousands of Chinese civilians.