My mother, who is South Korean, once told me about how older Korean citizens, especially from her parents’ generation, often have a very loyal affection for US Gen. Douglas MacArthur. He was popular in Korea and celebrated as a war hero for his leadership in the Korean War, a noteworthy foreign military hero for a traditionally nationalistic country once called “The Hermit Kingdom”.

Operation Chromite is a Korean production that features Liam Neeson as the famed general, and dramatizes a covert espionage operation critical to the Battle Of Incheon (more typically spelled “Inchon”), a major turning point in the war.

The plot revolves around MacArthur’s plan to launch a surprise naval landing at Incheon, a risky undertaking thought to be nearly impossible due to the difficulty of the approach. In advance of the attack, he dispatches an elite team to infiltrate North Korean tactical headquarters and obtain critical intel, including naval charts with the secret locations of underwater mines that threaten to devastate an amphibious assault.

The high-stakes espionage mission is led by Lt. Jang Hak-soo (Korean star Jung-jae Lee), posing as a North Korean officer. He and his men are almost immediately eyed upon by a suspicious colonel (Beom-su Lee) who finds them a little bit too interested in his naval plans. When the team is outed and their needed charts destroyed, they must improvise to save MacArthur’s invasion from disaster.

The film’s branching stories form two pretty disparate halves, switching between the team’s A-plot, which is a traditional Korean espionage film, and the English-language B-Plot at MacArthur’s military headquarters, where he and his other tacticians plot their daring invasion.

The Korean parts are taut and exciting, packed with action and ratcheting tension as the squad encounters countless setbacks and obstacles. A major highlight is a breathless sequence in which the operatives, disguised as doctors, kidnap an officer from his hospital bed and lead pursuers on a sprawling multi-vehicle chase reminiscent of the Indiana Jones movies.

The American parts are less exciting, which is to be expected given the different nature of that material, but also less essential. They seem to be designed mainly to get more screentime for Liam Neeson, determined to make a main character out of what’s essentially a supporting role, and give the film broader international appeal. Even with as accomplished an actor as Neeson, some of MacArthur’s dialogue feels a bit stilted and odd. I don’t know if this is actually the case, but at times the unusual syntax gave me the impression of being a too-literal translation of a Korean screenplay. The American scenes also feel more stagey, with sometimes obvious composited CG environments.

Like many Korean films of its kind, the movie is overtly dramatic and heavy with themes of sacrifice. I found it incredibly affecting, but Western audiences tend to view melodrama unfavorably. On Letterboxd, for example, the reception has been middling, with most reviews centered in the 2–3 star range even though I think the film is pretty great.

Aside from the criticisms I’ve noted, which mostly boil down to the need for more judicious editing on the B-plot, Operation Chromite is an exciting and emotional war story that is very similar to, though not quite as good as, 2015’s Assassination, another Korean espionage film starring Jung-jae Lee.

The Package

Battle For Incheon: Operation Chromite makes its US Blu-ray release in a handsome edition from CJ Entertainment. My copy came with a rather snazzy slipcover with glossy and embossed accents. (Full Unboxing)

Special Features and Extras

The disc includes a short featurette and a handful of trailers.

Making Of (3:57)
The way that this featurette is frenetically edited actually packs a lot of behind the scenes clips and interview bites into its brief 4 minutes. Subtitle-dependent foreign language featurettes can sometimes be a chore, but this format is actually really great.

Promotional trailers/spots for other past and future CJ Entertainment titles including The Priests: Exorcism (:32), Veteran (:31), The Piper (:42), The Admiral: Roaring Currents (:31), The Himalayas (1:57), and Battle For Incheon: Operation Chromite (1:29)

Get it at Amazon:
Battle For Incheon: Operation Chromite — [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Amazon Video]

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