Empire - 05/01/2010 4 stars out of 5 -- "The unfolding events are portrayed with great skill by Chuan....It burns off the screen."
Sight and Sound - 05/01/2010
"CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH is anchored in a realistic reconstruction of the appalling events that occurred between December 1937 and the lunar new year of 1938..."
Total Film - 10/01/2010 4 stars out of 5 -- "In Lu Chuan's shocking take, the focus is on victims and aggressors."
New York Times - 05/10/2011
"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."
Los Angeles Times - 06/17/2011
"CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH is a cinematic experience unlike any you've had before....Both epic and intimate..."
Wall Street Journal - 06/17/2011
"A drama that could pass for a documentary, CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH re-creates the Nanjing Massacre....As an act of remembrance, thought, it is singular and, in its way, soaring."
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 refugee camp. Lu relays the events directly and straightforwardly, with a careful avoidance of sensationalism and excessive sentimentality, and uses the chronicle to meditate on the insanity of war for all of those involved.