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John Rabe Reviews

Page 2 of 5

Super Reviewer

January 24, 2013
I like the World War II films that cover the stuff everyone knows, but I'm stating to get even more appreciative of the ones that bring the lesser known parts to a wider audience.

What we get here is the story of John Rabe who was essentially the Oskar Schindler of China. This film is a look at German Industrialist John Rabe who lived and worked in China, and was one of the key players who established a safety zone for the locals during the occupation of China by the ruthless Japanese Imperial Army. The event is often (unflatteringly) referred to as "The Rape of Nanking".

What this docudrama depicts is how Rabe goes from Nazi Party member to savior due to his efforts to provide sanctuary for the oppressed locals. Joining him in his efforts were other Westerners, with the highlight being American Dr. Robert Wilson- a very dedicated and compassionate doctor not afraid to speak his mind and call out Rabe for his flaws and motivations.

In this film Wilson is played by Steve Buscemi, and, while I think Ulrich Tukur was fine as Rabe, I think Buscemi gives a better performance, and that the film should have been more about him. That's not just because Buscemi is my favorite actor. His character is just more interesting, developed, and compelling. But Rabe is still a fascinating person, even if the film doesn't do with him what it should, especially since he is the lead here.

The period details are great, the film has a nice balance with showing the atrocities without going overboard or sugar coating it, and, more importantly, it brings to life an important part of history that more people need to know about.

Yeah the script could be better written, the pacing and structure a little tighter, and the importance of the story made more apparent, but overall, the film does just enough right to merit a slightly more than meager recommendation.
February 25, 2013
Sterk waargebeurd verhaal dat een beetje doet denken aan Schindlers List. Aanrader!.
April 27, 2011
The "Asian Shindler". Too long, too melodramatic, to stereotypical. I am baffled at the capacity to render history so smooth that it becomes boring, especially when you consider the diversity and the richness of the material that is (badly) used in this film. Maybe that's the problem -- too rich a material for people who didn't know what to do with it.
November 13, 2012
When people ask "What can one person do?".... WATCH THIS FILM!!!
July 23, 2012
jako ta poprava rady cinskejch vojaku z jedouciho nakladaku s kulometem na korbe, celkem maso, hlavne ta hlaska "vsichni vstante, ted vam bude rozdana tepla polevka"
May 25, 2012
I read his Rabe's biography -- a remarkable man, taking a stand at a very brutal moment in Chinese history. The movie does a good job with it, though some parts of it are just too much drama, and the sheer drudgery of every day survival that makes up the biography goes missing. If you do not know about Rabe, take time to watch the movie or read his biography.
April 25, 2012
Steve Buscemi got my attention to this film. Hollywood flicks may not be 100% accurate though intense war story perspective view from John Rabe.
April 16, 2012
A Better Man, If Not a Better Film, Than Oskar Schindler

It will not surprise anyone who knows anything about the Rape of Nanking that this film did not find a Japanese distributor. It will also fail to surprise most of those people that the Rape of Nanking is not terribly well known in the United States. The average American seems to assume that World War II didn't start until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Slightly better educated Americans can tell you about things the Germans did in Europe in the '30s. And extremely well educated Americans actually know about what the Japanese did in China in the '30s. You almost have to be an expert to know about Ethiopia. 250,000 to 300,000 people were killed, and 200,000 to 250,000 people were protected within the International Safety Zone administered by a group of Westerners. Obviously, not all of them would have been killed. But equally obviously, they were safer there than they would have been in the rest of the city--or in much of anywhere else in China under Japanese control.

John Rabe (Ulrich Tukur) was the head of the Siemens plant in Nanking, China, for twenty years. He was called home in 1937; the Germans were going to close down the plant and the Japanese were going to take over the country. John and Dora (Dagmar Manzel) were to return to Berlin. On the night that John was giving his farewell speech to the Westerners in Nanking, the Japanese began attacking the city. John let his workers into the Siemens plant despite the orders of Werner Fließ (Mathias Herrmann), who is supposed to take over the plant until its dissolution. John Rabe, along with the rest of the Western community, agrees that they will create a zone within the city which they will declare under their protection. Rabe is named head of their organization, largely because he's German and therefore has diplomatic pull. His assistant in the group is American Dr. Robert Wilson (Steve Buscemi), who dislikes and distrusts him in no small part because of the whole Nazi thing.

John Rabe wasn't much like Oskar Schindler, for all they hold similar places in World War II history. For one thing, Oskar Schindler was in it for the quick buck. John Rabe had been working an ordinary job for an ordinary company for decades. He was in the wrong place at the right time. Oskar Schindler was following the fortunes of war. He knew there would be a fortune in it for him if he did things right. Saving people started as incidental for both men, but John Rabe immediately knew that it was what he needed to do, and Oskar Schindler had to force himself into it. Both men ended up living on the goodwill of those they'd saved--though John Rabe's support rather dwindled after the Communist takeover. But because John Rabe was back in Berlin during the War, the people he saved were not there to tell the Allies what he had done for them, and he was subject to certain treatments Oskar Schindler managed to avoid by surrounding himself with testifying Jews. John Rabe, who was probably already pretty disillusioned with the Nazi Party when they didn't do anything to help Nanking, still had to undergo "deNazification."

As for the film itself? Well, it's nice that Steve Buscemi gets to shine as a hero for once. However, I'm a little unclear on why the real-life Minnie Vautrin (whose own story is no little tragic) was replaced by the fictional Valérie Dupres (Anne Cosigny). It might be an attempt to balance out the nationalities of the members of the committee, but why do that? Aside from a single Danish member, everyone else was either American, British, or German. Cosigny is fine in the role, but that's hardly the point. It's also worth noting that, once again, we are looking at the saviours and not the saved. Langshu (Jingchu Zhang) is the highest-billed Asian character in the movie, and she doesn't get a heck of a lot of lines. She is also, frankly, kind of stupid. But it strikes me that hardly anyone in the movie really seems to understand the risks they're taking until people actually get shot for whatever-it-is they've done as a show of independence. You would think that would have had to happen a little less often before people would learn that lesson from others' experience.

So yeah. If you were in Japan, you didn't have the opportunity to see this. Textbooks are used in the schools that just ignore that the Rape of Nanking ever happened at all. And John Rabe's grandson is now working to try to get the Japanese to acknowledge the war crimes in part in the belief that acknowledging it would start the process of healing--for China and Japan both. I really do agree with him on that, as it happens. Unless you acknowledge where you were wrong, you can't ever move on. You can't ever be better than that. A lot of people don't want to let Germany get over the Nazi movement, but I think the German government and the German people have gone a long way toward trying to come to terms with their darker past. However, in some ways, it's actually easier for them. After all, a lot of the evils of Nazi Germany happened [i]in Germany[/i], whereas most of the evils of Japan from that same era happened in China or Korea. It's easier to ignore what you never had to see in the first place.
April 10, 2012
Rape of Nanking. Who knew. I admit I only knew the name of it, nothing more. Now this ignoramus knows a lot more. Uplifting story, despite the cruelty and the bloody deaths. Nothing better than stories based on real persons and real historical events...
March 8, 2012
Germany's Schindler's List. I think they succeeded. Of course you couldn't so without some Hollywood tripe here but all in all a good film
January 15, 2012
Such a powerful story, told brilliantly by Gallenberger. Unbelievable to think that stories of courage and compassion like this are so often lost and forgotten. You think Schindler was a saint? Rabe was a miracle amidst an inferno, and he died without so much as a nod of appreciation from his own country. Great movie, important truths...I'm glad that I had the opportunity to learn of it.
January 14, 2012
Yep. mellow yet so predictable, but still had a guts of heart-squeezing moment. so the man was Ulrich Tukur ? #becameafan
January 13, 2012
Much like Schindler's List, but this having to do with the 1937 Rape of Nanking instead of the European Holocaust, Director Florian Gallenberger gives us a film that shows there can always be a spark of humanity beneath humans' depravity. Ulrich Tukur and Steve Buscemi star.
December 15, 2011
Good, but not great. Comparisons with Schindler's List are in order, but only due to the historical parallels. Movie-wise, City of War isn't on a par with Schindler's List. While City of War gives a fair depiction of the historical events, it doesn't really go any further. It lacks the degree of grit and emotion that Schindler's List had.
November 20, 2011
This was pretty good for a foreign movie!

Super Reviewer

November 20, 2011
Directed by Florian Gallenberger and about real history
November 18, 2011
Based on a true story but somewhat fictionalized, this movie is about the role played by German engineer John Rabe during the Japanese Rape of Nanking, when he headed up a international committee of Nanking-based expatriates to establish a safe zone for civilian noncombatants, making great personal sacrifices to do so. He is credited with saving the lives of 200,000 Chinese, and was at least partially successful in holding off the depradations of the Japanese because he was a Nazi party member and thus officially an ally of the Japanese. This is a very good, not too romanticized movie that explores an aspect of WWII little known to Westerners, and Rabe's story (particularly as presented in this movie, where he is depicted as a less than fervent Nazi) is an impressive one. The war scenes, special effects, and especially the actors are all excellent. I particularly liked the way the director handled language: Japanese characters speak Japanese, Chinese Chinese, Germans German, etc, with English subtitles where necessary.
November 18, 2011
This was quite a good movie, though I don't feel comfortable giving it 3 and a half stars. Overall it is a good story about an extraordinary man, really extraordinary people considering Rabe wasn't working on his own. I just feel the drama doesn't flow as naturally as it probably should have considering the subject matter. And let me tell you, I had NO idea who this man was before watching the trailer for the movie last year or so. So it's good to see a movie about something in history that wasn't beaten to death by filmmakers. I hope it serves to shed light on a an event that may have been forgotten over here, in the west, otherwise. The acting is strong, the story, as it is based on real events, is good as well. But, again, the drama could have been better, but this is the best three star movie you'll see.
Jens S

Super Reviewer

November 13, 2011
This German film tells the story of the Japanese sacking of Nanking, China in 1937 and the part German engineer Rabe played in saving great numbers of the population from murder and rape. Especially the 3 hour version takes its time introducing the characters and situation shortly before the Japanese invasion and delivers some great and spectacular war scenes. Things in town start to get dire pretty soon, too. In its strongest and most horrifying moments, the film does not have to hide behind Schindler's List, when it comes to depicting the horrors of war and war crimes in particular. That sometimes makes it almost unbearable to watch, but still so enthralling and touching. The acting is top notch, especially Tukur is a really convincing jovial but humane Rabe. Buscemi as the American doctor in town has the best one liners and brings some bitter humor into play. The direction is flawless and creates a maelstrom of desperate situations without ever entirely abandoning hope. That makes for engrossing and moving film making and a movie that actually got deeper under my skin than Spielberg's classic. Highly recommended for history buffs.
October 29, 2011
Twentieth century had so many facts involving genocide, especially during World War II, that usually we end up ignoring the total historical reality. In this "John Rabe" (2009), Florian Gallenberger, director and writter, tell us about the Nanking Massacre, which occurred in 1937, when China was invaded by the ruthless Japanese Imperial Army. In few months more than 300,000 chinese people were murdered and hundreds of women were raped. The film works very well as a complaint against a historical event that Japan, unfortunately, still insists on denying.
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