forget how grim the Korean War looked in 1950. Incheon was safely under
iron-fisted Communist control and the front line was all the way down at Busan.
However, the tide decisively turned when Gen. Douglas MacArthur led a massive
amphibious landing at Incheon (commonly referred to as Inchon in contemporary
accounts). An operation like that did not happen without planning. It also
required the covert efforts of a team of South Korean commandos attached to the
Korean Liaison Office (KLO). Their secret Operation X-Ray will pave the way for
the grand titular assault in John H. Lee’s somewhat fact-based Operation Chromite (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Hak-soo was once a Communist in the North, but the atrocities he saw drove him
to defect to the South. Of course, that makes him the perfect candidate to
impersonate Park Nam-chul, a military inspector due to give the Incheon fortifications
the white glove treatment. He will be played by the always reliable Park
Sun-woong, but don’t get too attached to him, for obvious reasons.
X-Ray’s primary objective is the map of the mines placed throughout the narrow
inlet to Incheon’s harbor. Unfortunately, the fanatical local commander, Col.
Lim Gye-jin holds it closer to his vest than a hand full of five aces. Still,
Jang and his men nearly swipe it in a daring daylight heist. With their cover
consequently blown, the KLO team will have to improvise with the help of the local
underground. The formerly true-believing nurse Han Jae-sun will also join their
ranks when her uncle is publicly executed by Lim.
Chromite is a terrific war
movie in the Guns of Navarone tradition
that approaches the all-out action nirvana of Choi Dong-hoon’s Assassination, but also encompasses the
great men and grand strategy of prestige war films. While Lee Jung-jae was
wonderfully despicable as Assassination’s
turncoat villain, he gets to play the hero this time, carrying himself with
mucho action cred and fierce dignity. Lee Beom-soo gleefully preens and chews
the scenery with relish as the arrogant Lim, while Jin Se-yun has some rather
poignant moments as the rudely disillusioned Han.
Liam Neeson will shock the world with his hardnosed but deeply humanistic
portrayal of Gen. MacArthur. Unlike previous media caricatures, director John
H. Lee and screenwriter Lee Man-hee depict the corn-cob-smoking icon as a
soldiers’ general, who profoundly empathizes with the South Koreans and chafes
under bureaucratic hand-wringing. He goes far beyond Tommy Lee Jones’ Rich
Little act in Emperor, getting to “old
soldier” who considers it immoral that DC politicians would ask his men to
fight and die with anything less than full victory as their objective.
H. Lee is becoming the preeminent cinematic chronicler of the Korean War,
following-up the first-rate 71: Into the Fire with the even more engaging and ambitious Chromite. The special effects are impressive, but they never
overwhelm the human story. Refreshingly patriotic and loaded with adrenaline
and testosterone, it is a ripping good war film that keeps faith with the South
Koreans, Americans and Allied forces who served in the conflict. Highly
recommended, Operation Chromite opens
this Friday (8/12) in New York, at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Korean Cinema, Korean War film, Liam Neeson