New York Times - 05/23/2008
"Roger Spottiswoode directs with old-fashioned style, avoiding the saccharine with realistic depictions of a war-ravaged China....The terrific cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding photographs dust devils and bullets as carefully as the luminous face of Michelle Yeoh..."
Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as real-life hero Charles Hogg in this mix of old-fashioned epic sweep and spiritual courage. Hogg is a naive journalist when he accidentally finds himself in wartorn China's Nanking province, just as the Japanese army is invading during the early days of World War II. He is almost executed but is rescued by a crafty communist guerilla (Chow Yun-Fat) and a lovely, brash nurse (Radha Mitchell). They send Hogg to a burnt-out orphanage to lie low, but as the scruffy orphans begin to charm him, he ends up teaching them English and basketball. Longtime Hong Kong superstar Michelle Yeoh (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) is a classy merchant who helps Hogg get the orphanage back on its feet, but then comes trouble when communist insurgents want to conscript the orphans into the local militia.
THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI is a rare case of an English film being shot in mainland China, and director Roger Spottiswoode (who worked with Yeoh previously on the Bond film TOMORROW NEVER DIES) and cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding get maximum mileage from the dusky beauty of the landscapes, the smoke and charred ruins, and the luminous features of the lead actors. Sweeping romance and war atrocities aside, what sticks here is the beauty of watching Hogg embrace his chance to become an instrument of peace and hope in a dangerous time. The real-life orphans, now elderly, appear at the end to honor the memory of the real Hogg in a touching tribute that lends the proceedings extra emotional impact.