It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
George Hogg is a British journalist sent to China to cover the 1930s war involving Japanese invaders and the Communist and Nationalist Chinese. It's surprising he survived a day. Inexperienced and naive, he journeys into unfamiliar territory and spends way too much time standing in full view and taking photos. Some of the photos have real news value, such as a series involving a Japanese massacre of civilians, but of course the Japanese capture him and the photos.
This leads to the first of two moments when Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is seconds from death; an executioner's sword seems already slicing down from the sky when he's rescued by a Chinese Nationalist named Chen (Chow Yun-fat). Later he's rescued again, by a beautiful British woman named Lee Pearson (Radha Mitchell), a brave heroine who roams the countryside on horseback by herself, bringing food and medical help to the countless displaced people who need it.
She had a civilian occupation before necessity thrust this mission upon her. Soon Hogg finds the same thing happening to him: Lee takes him to an orphanage, puts him in charge of 60 children, and tells him he must feed and educate them, and tend to their health. How can he do that? Hogg has no training, but Lee gives him no choice. He teaches himself.
All of this seems impossible, but Roger Spottiswoode's "The Children of Huang Shi" is based on fact; there was a real George Hogg. After he stars in an embarrassing public demonstration of the usefulness of flea powder, Hogg travels by mule to a nearby city where Madame Wang (Michelle Yeoh) runs a business dealing in seed, grains and perhaps other things. He convinces her they are in business together: She gives him the seeds and shares in the harvest.