With stately cinematography, period piece detail, and a true-life tale that mixes historical conflict and doomed romance, The Children of Huang Shi has all the ingredients for a stirring epic. Yet the resultant concoction of wartime heroism and loss seems to have been cooked in a cinematic Easy Bake Oven, blending its familiar elements with uninspired clunkiness. Director Roger Spottiswoode's film offers a functional retelling of the life of George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an English reporter who in 1937 sneaked into Japanese-controlled Nanjing, China and, with the aid of colorful communist rebel Chen Hansheng (Chow Yun-Fat) and brave nurse Lee Pearson (Radha Mitchell), cared for - and then led to safety across hundreds of mountainous miles - a school of orphaned children. A tale of sacrifice and courage embroidered with sweeping vistas of early 20th-century China and shiny shots of Mitchell's long, flowing blonde locks, it's a TV movie in disguise, a handsomely staid affair that prefers skin-deep elegance to psychological or historical substance, moving from regal panorama to gallant speechifying to dewy-eyed amour with metronomic predictability.