WARNING: The following review contains spoilers, I’m telling you now so you don’t pretend to be outraged later.
After a week where I watched one of the best movies of the year and one of the worst movies of the year in back to back days, I decided to take a little break and look at a film from the Asian Market called Operation Chromite. Operation Chromite is based on the real life events leading to the 1950 Battle of Inchon during the Korean War. The name Operation Chromite comes from the mission to recapture the city of Seoul from North Korean and Chinese Forces. The man behind the operation was Douglas MacArthur of the US Army who is played by Liam Neeson. Most people consider Inchon, one of the most successful military operations ever considering the odds were 5000 to 1 that it would actually work. An incredible war story has to translate to a great film, right?
The film begins with eight South Korean spies working with the United Nations, who infiltrate North Korean Forces led by crazy dictator #5 Kim Il-sung and his Defense Commander Lim Gym-jin. The spies led by Navy Lieutenant Jang Hak-soo, are trying to map out North Korea’s mines in the sea to allow General MacArthur a path to take over the city’s ports. Liam Neeson is the biggest star of the film but his role is limited. Neeson’s scenes are restricted to him being in the War Room wearing cool shades making the tough decisions from a distance. While his character plays a huge role in organizing the Inchon landing mission, you only see him playing the role of the bureaucrat as he tries to convince the higher-ups to agree to his highly questionable plans.
The script doesn’t flow very well as it feels like there are three different movies happening at once. The first part being a spy film, the second being an action film, and the third being war battle. They focus much of the first half of the film on espionage which leads to a pretty slow pace in the beginning. As the original plan begins to break down, you wonder about the importance of the mission, to begin with. Despite the numbers of deaths that occur, the UN’s plan doesn’t seem to hang too much on the outcome of the group. Now I’m sure that parts of this movie are widely exaggerated seeing how the risks these men take would have been too much for any operation especially one with this much on the line. Jang and his team kill a group of North Korean soldiers and take their place. Once inside, they immediately try to run inspections on the enemy’s mines which makes Commander Lim suspicious from the start. A cat and mouse game proceeds as Jang desperately tries to keep the cover of his team. However, when they are caught red-handed trying to steal Intel to bring to the UN, the group is ousted as traitors to the communist order and they find themselves at the mercy of Lim Gye-jin.
The action is pretty brutal but for a war film it’s not unexpected. The CGI during the concluding battle looks pretty rough. I don’t know what kind of budget this film was working with but the effects look like they weren’t rendered very well. Lee Bum-soo performance borders on the T-90 level of villainy and just being evil. Every time he is on screen, you fear for everyone’s life. The tension is played brilliantly between protagonist and antagonist, a literal game of human chess is on display as both men show expertise in military strategy and planning. The film also does a great job with showing you exactly why these men are motivated to fight against the communist regime. The spies connection with their families plays a major role and amplifies their courage and heart to make the ultimate sacrifice for their next generation. The conclusion comes with a massive battle between the UN and North Korea armies as they fight control of the port of Inchon and eventually control of the South Korea region.
Operation Chromite comes with pacing and script flaws but presents a great perspective on the Korean War and how tough it really was. The action is tense and unpredictable; you don’t know who is going to survive until the very end. While Liam Neeson’s role is limited, still delivers some of the best lines in the film. If someone could have made the script more coherent and while sharpening up the visuals, it would have been one of the better films of the year. Still, Operation Chromite is a good recommendation for those who are fans of Asian Cinema and history buffs looking to experience the story of the unsung heroes, who sacrificed their lives in the forgotten war.
OFFICIAL RATING: ***
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