The Rape of Nanking in 1937 was a sign of things to come in World War II: an estimated 300,000 Chinese civilians were massacred by the Japanese army, and untold numbers of women and children subjected to relentless sexual abuse. Only one place in the city was safe: a weapons-free zone created and policed by a commitee of international residents under the direction of Siemens engineer and Nazi Party member John Rabe, from whose diaries this impressive but rather traditional film is adapted.
It’s a terrific tale, competently told. But director
’s script and direction are a touch schematic, while his international cast, including stern
as Rabe and
as his sardonic American collaborator Wilson, appear to be going through the motions rather than getting to grips with the reality of the story. As a bank holiday war movie, ‘City of War’ works fine. But doesn’t the memory of those who died in Nanking – and those who struggled to help them – deserve better?