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The Children of Huang Shi (2008)

Action & Adventure and Art House & International movie directed by Roger Spottiswoode

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A Nearly Impossible Story to Tell or Believe: True Heroism

  • Jan 23, 2009
Rating:
+3
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! Grady Harp, January 09

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More The Children of Huang Shi (200... reviews
review by . January 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
Set in Shanghai in end 1937, this movie is a prelude to World War II. The beginning of a horror many cannot identified with in our times. It reminds me of The Killing Field and one of the scenes actually is a déjà vu; this time, not from a dream but from my past trip to Cambodia. At a high school where masses of people were being tortured and killed. One particular opening scene was that. Masses of people were shot in the compound at the front of some building. The English reporter …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Wiki

The Children of Huang Shiis a powerful, inspiring film about a real-life, outsider hero who emerged from Japan's catastrophic invasion of China in 1937. A British journalist, George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) sneaks into Nanjing at the height of Japan's destruction of that cosmopolitan city. Rescued from certain death by a suave rebel named Chen Hansheng (Chow Yun-Fat), Hogg goes deep into China's countryside in search of another front to the war. Instead of furthering his career, however, Hogg is talked into taking control of a destitute orphanage occupied by starving, lice-ridden, half-savage boys. A roving nurse, Lee Pearson (Radha Mitchell), keeps Hogg focused on his task, provides him with medical supplies, and ultimately becomes his lover. But the former reporter has to figure many things out on his own, including how to inspire the boys to help fend for themselves.

With the Japanese closing in on the orphanage and the Chinese looking at the boys as likely soldiers, Hogg, Pearson, and Hansheng lead the kids on an extraordinarily strenuous, 700-mile hike to Marco Polo's so-called Silk Road, leading to the Gobi Desert. The second half of The Children of Huang Shi is taken up by this sometimes deadly labor, and director Roger Spottiswoode balances the dreariness of it with knockout images of mountains and eerie, desert vistas. The multi-national cast is the best thing about the film, which avoids canonizing the saintly Hogg by not ignoring his sins of ...

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Details

Director: Roger Spottiswoode
DVD Release Date: January 20, 2009
Runtime: 125 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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