A Chinese war film about the Nanjing bloodbath. Not the first film that was made about this dire event, but by far one of the least pompous ones. While there is a small layer of patriotism present, director Chuan Lu goes for a more realistic approach and places the audience right inside the action.
Don't expect a very pleasant or entertaining film though, City of Life and Death puts its focus squarely on the war atrocities that happened back then. It's a film without a real lead, without too much narrative, but with lots of on-screen massacres that don't leave much to the imagination.
Still, the emotional impact of the film is rather limited. The black and white cinematography comes off a little forced, the repetition of the killings has an almost dulling effect and while the performances are pretty decent, the lack of a lead ultimately hurts the film. It's not a bad film, it just didn't succeed at what it set out to do.