The Children of Huang Shi

Critics Consensus

This beautifully photographed but dramatically flat war drama recounts an important chapter in history with little cinematic freshness.

31%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 78

66%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 70,049
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The Children of Huang Shi Photos

Movie Info

Inspired by true events, the film tells the story of George Hogg, a young British journalist, who rescues 60 orphaned children. He leads them on a treacherous 1000-mile journey along the Silk Road, through the Liu Pan Shan Mountains into the spectacular Gobi desert. Over the course of the journey he falls in love with a determined, self-trained nurse, and makes a friend in Chen, the leader of a Chinese partisan group. Madame Wang, a surviving aristocrat, assists in guiding them to safety in a remote village near the western end of China's Great Wall.

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Cast

Radha Mitchell
as Lee Pearson
Yun-Fat Chow
as "Jack" Chen Hansheng
Michelle Yeoh
as Madame Wang
Guang Li
as Shi-Kai
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Critic Reviews for The Children of Huang Shi

All Critics (78) | Top Critics (29)

  • It radiates intelligence. Of how many historical epics can that be said these days?

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • It is, however, such a spectacular-looking movie, as shot by cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding that it is, to use that old cliche, worth the price of admission.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/4

    John Anderson

    Newsday
    Top Critic
  • Though there are some powerful performances, notably those of Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat, and some sweeping visuals, the movie feels melodramatic and overheated.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 2/4

    Claudia Puig

    USA Today
    Top Critic
  • Very pretty but very stiffly written, The Children of Huang Shi strives for epic canvases relaying an intimate story.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 2/4
  • If you can get past the Eurocentric focus, there are worse ways to pass the time than to see The Children of Huang Shi, if only because the glimpse into the time and place are captivating and the images are gorgeous.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Perhaps it would have been wise for the director, Roger Spottiswoode, to make more efficient use of Chow Yun-fat, who shows up now and then as a resistance fighter.

    Jul 16, 2008 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Children of Huang Shi

  • Jun 05, 2010
    Beautiful to look at. KIlled by melodramatic script.
    Juli R Super Reviewer
  • Jan 27, 2010
    Shi-Kai: [to the orphans] Please welcome Mr. Pig. George Hogg: Hogg. Shi-Kai: [smugly] It says "Pig". George Hogg: Why doesn't the school just send these boys back to their families? Lee Pearson: this isn't a school George Hogg: it looks like one Lee Pearson: it's a orphanage George Hogg: HELLO? Who's in charge here? [Shi Kai appears] George Hogg: [George hold out a letter] This is for the person in charge. [Shi Kai grabs it and opens it] George Hogg: No! I said this is for the person in charge! Shi-Kai: I'm in charge here! George Hogg: How is it you speak English? Shi-Kai: I am not a peasant like the rest of them, my father is a government official! THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI is a long (greater than two hours) epic tale that happens to be a true story of an extraordinary hero's life and gift to humanity during World War II. If as a film the telling of this story is a bit shaky in spots, it is probably due to the episodic series of events that happened very quickly and under existing conditions of profound stress. Yet despite the occasional misfires in production this remains a bit of history we all should know. George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a journalist assigned to Shanghai in 1937 and with his colleagues he plans to explore the extent of the invasion of China by the Japanese. Under the guise of Red Cross workers his small band manages to enter Nanjing where now alone due to the loss of his friends to battle he observes and photographs the atrocities of mass murders of the people of Nanjing. He is captured by the Japanese, tortured when his confiscated camera reveals his terrifying photographs, and it is only by acts of fortune and the aid of a Chinese Nationalist Chen Hansheng (Chow Yun-Fat) that he escapes. Hogg probes the Chinese countryside for further evidences of the evil of the Japanese invasion, and he finds a village of children (adults are all absent) and realizes that he is in an orphanage without a leader. At first reluctant to assume the role of guardian of these impoverished and filthy frightened children, he soon accepts his responsibility and is challenged by an Australian nurse Lee Pearson (Radha Mitchell) to become not only the caretaker but also the father/teacher/provider/role model these children so desperately need. Seeing the advancing of the Japanese, Hogg decides to take his wards 700 mile away to a small village by the Gobi desert reachable only by the infamous Silk Road. It is this journey and the way both the children and Hogg are affected by the challenge that absorb the greater part of the film. Observing the transformation of George Hogg's view of the world is made credible by Jonathan Rhys Meyers' performance. The cast of children often steals the limelight, but with supporting cast members such as Chow Yun-Fat, Radha Mitchell and Michelle Yeoh as an opium merchant the story never lacks color and character. The look of the film is dark, but the message of this story is full of light. Here is a bit of Chinese history we should all know! It is based on a real person Charles Hogg a journalist in his 20's,who reluctantly became head of a school of orphans,who with the help of a young nurse leads these young children 700 miles across China to a safer area. There was a similar film many years ago with Ingrid Bergman, Inn of the Sixth Happinness; which in itself was an excellent movie. Jonathan Rhyss-Meyer who is under 30 is Hogg & fits the role perfectly. Radha Mitchell is the Aunstralian nurse ,she has a difficult role to play, she does have personal problems.She too, fits here role perfectly. Ynn Fat Chow (AKA Chow Yun Fat)is a soldier & Hogg's friend. This fine actor has yet to give a bad performance. Michelle Yeoh also has a major role & is great In fact all the acting & all the production values are first rate. This film is based on fact,I cannot & will not say how accurate it is. I only know I felt watching it, I saw a wonderful well made film. As one would expect there are some clichés, Very few if any films escape from having them Who was George Hogg, really? Do an Internet search and you'll see that his name is variously interpreted as a "footballer," a midshipman on the Titantic, and various unknowns in genealogy charts. But Nie Quangpei, a Chinese orphan whose life Hogg saved, had this to say: "They say there isn't a perfect man in this world, but Hogg was." Nie,now a middleaged tradesman in the PRC, seems to have had more insight into the forging of character than the writers and director (Australian Roger Spottiswoode) of the film. "He changed," says Nie of Hogg's transformation from a raw university graduate to a father figure to 60 boys under extraordinary circumstances. "He became a different man." While the facts are not widely public except to Sinophiles, they are impressive on their face. An English blueblood and Oxford grad, the handsome Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers)tried his hand at journalism in wealthy, up-and-coming Shanghai and could have led the good life for the duration of WWII. Instead he connected with a like-minded benefactor, Rewi Alli, to determine what could be done with orphans and the homeless. After mastering Mandarin he became the headmaster of Shuangshi-pu school, mostly for orphans, in a northwestern province. He made a success of teaching and administering there until fear of the oncoming Japanese invasion convinced him to leave. Managing to cross some 600-700 miles in the dead of winter with children and books on carts, he re-established them in a converted monastery--all with little help and few resources. Though keenly aware of the irony of staying in China while his own country was under threat, Hogg came to terms with who he was and was deeply loved by his charges in the process. Today a statue in his honor stands in his final resting place in Shanan, Gansu. Spottiswoode, though, prefers to go for the blood, sex, and supposedly, the glory. Briefly seen as a journalist at parties in Shanghai, his Hogg finds a way to make it to Nanking to get the perfect story on the Japanese invasion, but while there nearly suffers a beheading when the invaders discover him. (In reality, the Japanese had their hands full with just dispatching locals with guns--the efficient killing method of choice--for the most part ignoring Westerners.) Just in the nick of time, Hogg is saved by a counter-revolutionary (a suave, goatee-bedecked Chow Yun Fat) and a beautiful American nurse, Lee (Australian Radha Mitchell), whose presence in circumstances of extreme personal peril is never entirely explained. But no matter: she is portrayed as the one who convinces Hogg to take shelter in an orphanage, to learn Chinese and otherwise take a breather. As she comes and goes to the orphanage, her existence means a film opportunity for romance, as though Hogg's real-life challenge of adapting to near-starvation conditions and nurturing traumatized children could have been inspiration enough for anyone. A hint of a love triangle also surfaces in the person of a beautiful, exquisitely dressed local merchant of opiates (Michelle Seoh) who will go to any lengths to serve Hogg's cause. History, as documentarian Ken Burns has proved, can be compelling in its own right. It can both stranger than fiction and more powerful, as we see the choices others have made that we do or don't choose to emulate. A decent tribute to Hogg's life would have demanded that his unheralded acts stand in stark relief to the pointless cruelties of war around him. That didn't happen in this movie. His legacy to the weak and unfortunate lives on, most recently in a book published this January in Beijing (Ocean Devil, by James MacManus). And final testimonies at the end of "Children of Huang Shi" from boys saved by Hogg--boys who are now in late middle age--do something to capture the essence of respectful biography but still, not nearly enough. The movie was exquisitely filmed in Chinese and Australian localities. About young British journalist, George Hogg, who with the assistance of a courageous Australian nurse and a Chinese partisan fighter, saves a group of orphaned children during the Japanese occupation of China in 1937. People thrown into an unexpected and desperate situation discover their capacity for love and responsibility. A young Englishman, George Hogg, comes to lead sixty orphaned boys on a journey of over 500 perilous miles across the snow-bound Liu Pan Shan mountains to safety on the edge of the Mongolian desert. And how, in doing so, he comes to understand the meaning of courage. During his journey, Hogg learns to rely on the support of Chen, the leader of a Chinese communist partisan group who becomes his closest friend. He soon finds himself falling in love with Lee, a recklessly brave American nurse whom war has turned into an unsentimental healer on horseback. Along the way Hogg befriends Madame Wang, an aristocratic survivor who has also been displaced by war, who helps the young Englishman, his friends and their sixty war orphans make their way across mountain and desert regions to a place of safety near the western end of the Great Wall of China. About young British journalist, George Hogg, who with the assistance of a courageous Australian nurse, saves a group of orphaned children during the Japanese occupation of China in 1937. Inspired by true events, the film tells the story of George Hogg, a young British journalist, who rescues 60 orphaned children. He leads them on a treacherous 1000-mile journey along the Silk Road, through the Liu Pan Shan Mountains into the spectacular Gobi desert. Over the course of the journey he falls in love with a determined, self-trained nurse, and makes a friend in Chen, the leader of a Chinese partisan group. Madame Wang, a surviving aristocrat, assists in guiding them to safety in a remote village near the western end of China's Great Wall.
    Sergio E Super Reviewer
  • Oct 30, 2009
    "The Children of Huang Shi" starts in 1937 Shanghai as journalist George Hogg(Jonathan Rhys Meyers) tricks his way into the war zone of Nanjing by pretending to be an ambulance driver. While there, he witnesses a civilian massacre, is captured by the Japanese and is almost beheaded before being rescued at the last second by Communist insurgents, led by Chen Hansheng(Chow Yun-Fat). Hogg's two compatriots are not so lucky and Chen and Hogg have another tight escape before Chen spirits Hogg away to an orphanage for safekeeping. And again, Hogg needs rescuing, this time from a beatdown by the kids, by Lee Pearson(Radha Mitchell), an expatriate nurse who has been in country for five years and the closest thing to a doctor for miles around. Based on a true story, "The Children of Huang Shi" is an enticing and beautifully photographed epic that is not without its share of flaws. There are pacing issues and it could have been longer but I like how it ends. On the plus side, the film goes beyond the old fashioned trappings with little complexities, especially with the children being more troubled than cute. The complicated political realities of the time are captured perfectly with the Nationalists and the Communists both fighting the Japanese but can never overcome their political differences to totally trust each other. However, Chen risks his life to rescue trapped Nationalist soldiers at one point. "The Children of Huang Shi" is not a war movie about combat, but about knowing when to fight and choose your battles, so it is okay to escape in one piece. There is no reason to be heroic if you are dead. Even then, any survivors will remain forever changed by the experience and probably not for the better. Chen was an engineer and now he blows up buildings to ensure the Japanese do not recover valuable information.(At least, somebody enjoys their job.) Along the way, Hogg learns that the best way to conquer the world is through kindness.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 13, 2009
    It's inspired by a true srory but at times it didn't feel like that. But I didn't care about that, because I just dug the hell out of this. The script is really good. I liked the pacing because it wasn't neither fast or slow. It was just right. The acting from the cast was great. The two chinese actors, Chow Yun Fut and Michelle Yeoh were ever so delightful. Radha Mitchell delivers a powerful performance, but the winner is easily Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He's fabulous! The characters each have something deep. I loved that. The little chinese children are all so sweet which gives you a fuzzy feeling, coz u really do start to care for them. I really liked this. It didn't really have any flaws. I'm sure that the critics will disagree with me, but for me, this is a winner!
    James H Super Reviewer

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