Universal acclaim - based on 13 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 17 Ratings

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  • Summary: In December 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army laid siege to the Chinese capital of Nanking, killing as many as 300,000 citizens during a six-week reign of terror, the details of which Japan and China dispute to this day. Shot in dazzling black-and-white Cinemascope, City of Life and Death is a visionary re-telling of one of the most horrific chapters in modern Asian history, and an unforgettable masterpiece of contemporary world cinema. (Kino International) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 13
  2. Negative: 0 out of 13
  1. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    May 12, 2011
    City of Life and Death isn't cathartic: it offers no uplifting moments, just the immodest balm of art. The horrors it represents can be almost too difficult to watch, yet you keep watching because Mr. Lu makes the case that you must.
  2. Reviewed by: David Lewis
    Sep 22, 2011
    City of Life and Death, a stunning re-creation of the Japanese army's annihilation of Nanking in 1937, will make you flinch, even as you admire its brilliant black-and-white cinematography, breathtaking art design and unerring direction.
  3. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Nov 16, 2011
    Harrowing and unflinching, a savage nightmare so consuming and claustrophobic you will want to leave but fear to go, City of Life and Death is a cinematic experience unlike any you've had before. It's a film strong enough to change your life, if you can bear to watch it at all.
  4. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Jun 5, 2011
    Here the Japanese senses of honor and of shame are particularly entangled. Later in the film, Lu mounts an Imperial Army parade through the Nanking ruins. It's something to see.
  5. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jun 18, 2011
    Despite its blunt characterizations and simplifications, City of Life and Death, through the inexorable pileup of gruesome detail, achieves an epic vision of horror.
  6. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    May 12, 2011
    The film never feels entirely staid: Lu wriggles out of convention where he can, especially in the first half, and engages with history as an artist, not a hagiographer.
  7. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    May 10, 2011
    The movie skips along episodically; it's not quite as sharp as a war narrative needs to be, even if its nightmarish psychology feels spot-on.

See all 13 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 5
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 5
  3. Negative: 0 out of 5
  1. Nov 5, 2011
    A profound, heart-rending, and utterly moving experience. Engaging as it is tragic, this episode of history is retold in a manner that is both horrific and beautiful. I shall never forget it. Expand
  2. May 28, 2011
    A true masterpiece. A Schindler's List for the Nanking civilians. The black and white added to the authenticity of the movie. A true eye opener into the other conflict during WW2 . Expand
  3. Jul 7, 2011
    This movie is worth watching solely for its craftsmanship, its cinematography and reconstruction of the war zone are among the best in my recent memory. Yet it is its blunt content that pierce through the softest spot of all human beings. I just felt lucky when I walked out the cinema. Collapse
  4. Aug 19, 2011
    As of Agust, this is the best film I have seen this year. Grim but realistic, I was informed and horrified. Several questions kept running through my mind. Why did China take so long to clear this film for release? Did every Japanese have to be a devil? Why have the Japanese resisted admitting the truth about their actions during the 1930's and 40's? Why are they so stubborn? What happened to John Rabe when he returned to Nazi Germany and how did this affect his views. I also like the way the "comfort women's conditions were shown. No sugarcoating it as we men need to realize what is going on. This film will be on my 2011 Top Ten list. Expand
  5. Nov 18, 2012
    The film is about the chinise village of Natking during world war 2 and the shocking truth of one of the jappanse worse war crimes. The film dipicts the truth so well of how the jappanese and chinise would of acted in this dreadful carnage and atrosity, But the fine line of filming this movie in black and white was a perfect desition that kinda reminded me of Schindlers List, aswell as many other war film classics. A truly must see film with splended acting, directing and cinemtography it will leave you breathless to the final scene. Expand