Bought this as a recommended movie because I'm primarily a WWII and history buff. I must say, I was stunned at how truly EPIC this movie is. The cinematography is absolutely spectacular - some of the best work I've ever seen from a foreign film and it rivals anything I've ever seen from any movie for that matter. Unlike most foreign movies, this one doesn't have that "Gee, I'm watching a foreign movie" feel to it.
If you do not like reading subtitles, STAY AWAY FROM THIS MOVIE. THIS IS A MOVIE YOU MUST READ, UNLESS YOU SPEAK CHINESE. It is 2-1/2 hours long, so watching it and reading it at the same time is challenging at times and I did pause the disc and go back a few times just to catch everything - there are many scenes where incredible scenes are unfolding but you're busy reading the text so you can't fully appreciate what's going on. I personally don't mind doing that, but if it bothers you, then that's something to consider.
The story is just what people have said, so I'll not rehash that - it is a horrifying and tragic chapter of WWII history that has been completely glossed over and forgotten, but perhaps thanks to this remarkable film, it will get some long overdue attention. The roles played by Adrien and Tim Robins are bit parts, so their contribution to the movie is minimal, which is also great for me, personally, because I don't particularly care for either of them. Anybody could've played their parts and the movie would've been just as good - the Chinese characters carry this film and they are OUTSTANDING.
The CG work on the aerial attack scenes is slightly sub-par compared to most modern movies and has a bit of a video game look to it, but I've seen much worse - and that is the only thing I can even halfway criticize this film for. They had a cast of thousands for this movie, used actual locations instead of doing a ton of CG work, the explosions are real (and there are a lot of them), the wounds are gruesome and realistic to the point of being just as disturbing (if not more so) as what you see in Saving Private Ryan.
I cannot recommend this movie highly enough - it is a REMARKABLE achievement in every possible respect. The story line is incredible, and even better, it apparently is largely true because it is based on interviews with a Chinese girl who lived through the experience, which was conducted by an American reporter who was there first-hand in 1942 and witnessed it himself. If I understand it correctly, this collaboration of their record of events was published in 1964, and that work serves as the story line for this movie - thus the name, "Back to 1942" - it was a return to a horrifying time in their lives for both the reporter and the woman he was interviewing.
If you're a WWII history fanatic, this is an essential movie you MUST have in your collection. They NAILED all the details of the Chinese and Japanese weapons, uniforms, vehicles, and everything else throughout the movie - incredible attention to detail. If you're just a fan of truly sweeping huge scale movies, this one will also impress you - why this movie didn't win numerous awards is beyond me. Whomever is responsible for paying attention to amazing foreign movies wasn't paying attention here.
BUY THIS ONE - it is the "Ben Hur" of Chinese suffering and chaos during WWII.