City Of War: The Story Of John Rabe Review

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Nanking, 1937. The Japanese have occupied China's capital ascivilians flee to the sanctuary of the Safety Zone. There, only German business John Rabe stands between them and the wave of massacres consuming the city.


More conventional in its telling, but still making for fascinating comparisons with City Of Life And Death, this recounts the Nanking Massacre from the viewpoint of the Nazi factory manager who helped establish the International Security Zone that saved tens of thousands of lives during the pitiless Japanese onslaught.

Ulrich Tukur gives a sterling performance, but with the focus being so firmly on his reluctant heroism, Steve Buscemi’s doctor and Daniel Brühl’s diplomat aren’t always as convincing. Moreover, this lacks the intensity and pure horror of Lu Chuan’s lacerating account, and by sanitising or overlooking the corruption and chauvinism involved in bargaining with the invaders, it runs the risk of lionising John Rabe as a Chinese Schindler.

An intriguing companion piece to City Of Life And Death, this is a more sanitised version of the horrors of Nanking.