Operation Chromite was the code word for one of the riskiest military operations of the Korean War and the twentieth century in general. It was the brainchild of General Douglas MacArthur, a genius strategist and a man who has gone down in history as one of America’s most beloved leaders. He was played by none other than Laurence Oliver in the 1981 film Inchon, which covered the same subject matter. His performance did not go well. Inchon was the first film in history to earn four major Razzie awards.
Can Liam Neeson possibly do better with his interpretation of the character? Kinda. As MacArthur, he is a commanding force, the kind of force director John H. Lee must have hoped for as he envisaged him taking the role. Neeson just has that kind of authoritative charisma since he starred in Taken and he has been cashing that in for millions ever since. He brings it in spades for this role as he barks orders at his subordinates that would have made the film crew shake in their Converses.
However, that and an Olympic level of stoicism is pretty much all the script would ask of Northern Ireland’s finest. There’s only so much gruff staring and stern growling an audience can take. It also doesn’t help that this patriotic Korean-made film would have this American character loom over the film like a cob pipe smoking King Kong. Not enough time is spent with the other characters, who have been shafted in favour of canonising MacArthur and his daring plan.
But if a film is going to sideline the humans to showcase the explosions then you had better have some awesome action scenes. That is where John H. Lee shines the most. He brings the gloss and the glamour to the stylised action giving it a vitality that makes you care about the people getting blown to pieces, doing the thing that the plot cannot.
Operation Chromite is a big exercise in style over substance. But when the style is provided in the form of Liam Neeson doing his best curmudgeonly General and some of the most thrilling war sequences I’ve seen all year, that can’t be a bad thing.
Dir: John H. Lee
Scr: Man-Hee Lee, John H. Lee
Cast: Liam Neeson, Jung-jae Lee, Beom-su Lee
Prd: Kyu C. Lee, Chung Taewon
Runtime: 111 minutes