John Rabe (2010) – 7/10 epic Second Sino-Japanese War drama movie review

Cast / crew
Writer Based on true events: Florian Gallenberger
Director: Florian Gallenberger
Producer: Mischa Hofmann
Producer: Benjamin Herrmann
Producer: Jan Mojto
Writer (Book) John Rabe: Der Gute Deutsche von Nanking: Erwin Wickert
Ulrich Tukur: John Rabe
Daniel Brühl: Dr. Georg Rosen
Steve Buscemi: Dr. Robert Wilson
Anne Consigny: Valérie Dupres
Dagmar Manzel: Dora Rabe
Zhang Jingchu: Langshu

John Rabe (2010)

Nanking, China, 1937: Japan’s war with China reaches the city and Siemens power plant manager John Rabe realises that Germany’s alliance with Japan affords him protection from the attack. Quickly realising the utter devastation Japan seeks to wreak, Rabe and others set up a safe zone in the city where the locals can, too, be safe but the political pact between the two countries may not be enough to keep the surrounding Japanese soldiers at bay.


High-quality film shining a spotlight on a couple of unusual cinematic topics: a heroic Nazi German and the bitter hostilities between China and Japan. While based on Rabe’s own diaries, the writers seem to be a little too reverential and their treatment feels subconsciously slightly sanctimonious. Fortunately, Ulrich Tukur’s fine performance brings recognisable believability to the character and is critical to the success of the movie. The full-colour atrocity scenes are boringly dramatic (too many teary-eyed actors being ‘moved’ and ‘appalled’; a case of familiarity breeding contempt, I’m afraid) but the majority of the rest of the movie is genuinely engrossing and interesting as the characters battle against a relentless tide of adversity.

This movie contains a sexual swear word, adult dialogue and strong, sometimes graphic, sometimes extremely gory war and war crime violence, sexual violence and non-sexual female nudity.

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.


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