So, where do I start. Pros and cons.
I will try my best to be rational rather than just hating or faking.
First of all, the picture is great. Unlike many other war-theme movie made by Mainland China, the picture of those movies either look bad or just ok. However, this one doesn't look like a Chinese film like I used to know to be honest. The detail, the angle, and the structure are all above the top level. I don't have professional filming industry background, but as an audience living in both mainland China and US, I have watched tons of movies, and when it comes to war-theme movies, I can assure you this one isn't bad at all.
Second, the detail of war. War is always tough. Living in the peace world for decades made people forget how bad the war is. I was raised in Xinjiang China, and came to the US since junior High. I've seen footage of the killing riots happened in both China and US such as 2009 "7.5" happened in Urumqi, 1989 "6.4" happened in Tiananmen, 1921 in Tulsa, and so many more, but those are not comparable with war-level event. Life somehow turned to just a number showing on the statistic excel sheet. Sacrifice was one of many words that I could think of of this movie, the tough thing is you have to deal with the real facts, which was Chinese army back then was weak, even the best troop they have was not on the same level with the Japanese army. Then, you see how they gon fight this war, they sacrifice lives to create opportunities for others, one dead another took over the spot, and that was just hard to watch. People are afraid to death, so are soldiers, but afraid is not an option, that's what makes soldiers different.
Third, the story, and the politics behind the story. The movie was created based on a true historical story. I don't want to spoil here, but what I can say is that the movie showed at least big part of the history, and for most of Chinese people, that's some unknown history that they've never learned in the text book. When I was a kid, I used to live in China, the text book wont show much about how the NRP(Nationalist Party) contributed into this war against advanced Japanese Army. Your teacher will tell you exactly what they supposed to tell you, and yeah, the only good parts of CCP. Yet, the bad and the other parts was not told. I was fortunate to learn a lot of those unknown parts after coming to the US for high school. Just like anybody else, you may ask why the hell an army full of untrained soldiers with weapons would beat German-level advanced Japanese Army? I had this question, but the answer was tough to know. We didn't beat them, we sacrificed many lives just to save more time so there's hope for a future that nobody know what's gonna look like. This movie showed exactly the toughness of NPR Soldiers and how bad they wanted to save the nation and the people. They didn't know what's coming to them, they didn't know 1937 was just a start, they didn't know CCP would be running the country after the war. However, nobody cares if they were from CCP or NRP, they were all fighting for Chinese people, and they were all heroes dead with honor.
There was a line in the movie when a director was telling the army to retreat from the building, he said:"when all this is over, the world will remember this place, the world will remember you guys, and you are the real Chinese." Try to think the meaning behind it, I bet you will at least notice something if you know the history of CCP and NRP.