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 Australian 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. Written by
The only reason I decided to watch The Children of Huang Shi was because of the presence in the cast of Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh, two legends of Asian cinema whose work has been hugely enjoyed by me on many action and martial-arts movies.But, before watching The Children of Huang Shi, I already knew I was not going to see Yun-Fat sliding on a stairs' rail with a weapon on every hand, killing gangsters to right and left; and that I was not either going to see Yeoh spinning through the air before kicking the oppressor (or something similar) of a humble town.So, let's say that my expectations for this movie were not too big, and even like that, the final experience did not leave me very satisfied, although I cannot say I disliked the experience.
Director Roger Spottiswoode made good works on previous war films he directed (Hiroshima, Air America and Under Fire) and he backed to present a realistic war setting in The Children of Huang Shi, because he could create a good atmosphere and very well filmed war scenes.On the other side of the coin, we have a not completely solid screenplay which falls on many clichés: the stoic Occidental hero helping the "primitive" Asians; the nurse who has a harsh attitude but who is secretly vulnerable; the innocence of the kids going beyond of the horrors from the war...I wanna let clear that all my complains are against the weak structure from the movie and not against its good intention of honoring the memories of all the people who died during the war portrayed in here.
It is not difficult to imagine the story of this movie being made during the 50's, with Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis in the leading roles, but with France instead of Japan as the oppressed country.However, that stale sensibility does not grow old with too much grace, and now, in the 21st century, the pretension of setting the English hero imposing his values on the "inferior" foreigners skirts on the most condescending racism.Or, expressing all that in other words...would this movie have been made if the hero was not an interpreted by an attractive English actor (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) with good commercial expectations? I am used to see that kind of hypocrisy on Hollywood films (an example which comes to my mind at the moment is The Last Samurai), but it is obvious that also international productions like this one are not free of falling on that temptation.
However, in spite of not having left me very satisfied, I think The Children of Huan Shi deserves a slight recommendation because it is not boring, the performances are decent and the direction is good.If I had to summarize this film, I would say it is not bad, but it is mediocre and I feel it could have been better.
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