Operation Chromite Review

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The true story of a UN commander (Neeson)’s daring ploy: a ploy that would prove to be the pivotal move in the Korean War of the early 1950s. 

★★★★★

The covert mission of this Korean war drama’s title was an extremely risky but ingenious move by UN General Douglas MacArthur: involving the dispatch of a small group of South Korean spies into the coastal city of Inchon to gather intelligence that would ultimately lead to the recapture of Seoul from the North Korean People’s Army. Sadly though, “ingenious” is not a word that could also be used to describe the dialogue Liam Neeson has been given to portray him here, which even his usual up-to-11 solemnity cannot inject with any kind of gravitas. “A long time ago, I promised myself I would live as though I expected to live forever,” he grimaces at one point, with that line being only about the third-worst in the particular soliloquy in which it appears.

It is therefore fortunate that Neeson actually gets much less screen time than his top billing here might suggest. The main focus is instead on the team of eight who are instigating the General’s plan on the ground, lead by Communist defector Jang Hak-Soo (the brilliant, very charismatic Lee Jung-jae). While trying to dispel the suspicions of the borderline-psychotic North Korean commander (an impossibly menacing Lee Bum-soo), they attempt to swipe the plans that will allow MacArthur to instigate his attack on the harbour. Their initial, by-daylight strike does not work out, and once their cover is blown we get an explosive last hour that is full of brutal executions, bloody street battles, and extremely well-choreographed chase and shootout sequences. These scenes are almost enough to make you overlook the hammy in-English monologues that punctuate them. Almost.

It’s strange to watch a war epic and think that what it could do with less of are the gravelly Liam Neeson speeches. But that is exactly what happens here.

The true story of a revered general instigating one of the most daring ploys in military history might seem like the perfect vehicle for Liam Neeson to return to more serious fare, but even he cannot breathe life into some truly terrible dialogue. It’s left to the Korean actors to save the day.