The Sino-Japanese War has been the subject of numerous movies, but to my knowledge none has so far topped the visceral authenticity of the opening scenes in the Chinese epic City of Life and Death. It actually deals with the Battle of Nanjing and the massacre of defenseless prisoners and innocent civilians that followed, but it could just as well have been about the battle of Shanghai. Director Lu Chuan spent time in the Chinese military, and it shows. This is a war movie by a person who knows what he is on about. Everything is the way it should be. The sound effects, to mention just one example, are terrific. The debt to Spielberg — both Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan — is obvious, but unlike nearly all the other Spielberg imitations that have taken up moviegoers’ time over the past 15 years, this is actually a work that is fully on a par with the American master’s two WWII oeuvres.