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Operation Chromite - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2016

War, Action

Lee Jae-han

Lee Jeong-jae
Lee Beom-soo
Liam Neeson
Jin Se-yeon
Jeong Joon-ho
Park Chul-min
Kim Byeong-ok

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Operation Chromite

Operation Chromite - Film Screenshot 1

Story: It's the year 1950 and the communists of the north have conquered almost all of Korea. General MacArthur (Liam Neeson) is instructed to push the communists back to the north and win a war that nearly seems to be lost already. The tactically most wise option is an attack on the city Incheon, but the chances of success are extremely slim. Thus, it's of utmost importance for Operation Chromite that more intel about the city's defenses are gathered. An attack from the sea makes it indispensable that the positions of assumed sea mines are known. Therefore, a small Korean unit of the south under the supervision of Jang Hak-soo (Lee Jeong-jae) is sent to Incheon in order to get the necessary information from Commander Lim Gye-jin (Lee Beom-soo). Jang impersonates a high-ranking military inspector. However, Lim is extremely careful who to pass information to since he is quite aware of the danger posed by spies. Moreover, no one of Kim Il-sung's executive staff expects General MacArthur to attack Incheon. Only Lim anticipates it and thus makes life difficult for the spies of the secret unit...

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Operation Chromite - Film Screenshot 4

Review: "Operation Chromite" is a blockbuster that would have fared better if it weren't one. The movie, based on true events, works best when the secret Korean unit of the south works in the shadows. As an espionage thriller and action flick director Lee Jae-han (or John H. Lee how he likes to call himself in English) actually manages to convince. The tension is high and the shootouts at the beginning are adrenaline-loaden. It's just that you can't say the same about the second half. Here, the director just wants too much and it shows. The beach during the finale turns into a battlefield, the characters take a backseat, theatralic music is mixed with melodramatic and patriotic scenes and the movie ultimately becomes almost a caricature of itself. We have seen the pictures depicted here or similiar ones already, and at times even better, e.g. in "The Front Line".

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Of course, it may seem irritating that Liam Neeson takes on the role of General MacArthur. Sure, he doesn't deliver a bad performance, but at times his portrayal seems a bit comic-like. Nevertheless, it's nice to see no B-grade actors in the English-spoken parts of a movie for a change. However, this has a price. Apparently, Neeson didn't deem it necessary to take one single step into Korea. Otherwise, it's not possible to explain that all his scenes were either shot indoors with other Americans or completely obviously in front of a green screen. Director Lee did make use of quite a few tricks to create the illusion that Neeson could be seen with other Korean actors in the same scene. But they are barely innovative so that the attempt to get a popular Western star on board might rather be considered to be located on the border of being awkward.

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Yet, it seems as if Liam Neeson has used up all the budget with his pay which would have been put to better use had it gone into some decent CGI effects. The ships at sea, the airplanes and as already said some of the green screens aren't convincing and destroy the illusion of an epic war movie presented to us. "Operation Chromite" wants to keep up with big action blockbusters, but it can't. However, it does copy the missteps of those flicks. The characters aren't threedimensional enough and lack background stories. When it comes to the mandatory dying scenes they can't provoke any emotions despite a melodramatic score put to use. Lee Jeong-jae ("Big Match", "The Housemaid") at least manages to give his role the needed intensity, even though his motivation remains a bit nebulous despite a heavy-handedly implemented backstory around his family.

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To be honest, it is quite fun at times to watch Lee Beom-soo ("Forbidden Quest", "More Than Blue") portray the villain, but strictly speaking he also works on the brink of being comical. His gruesomeness - sometimes "Operation Chromite" can capture the atrocities of war and an ideology very nicely - is responsible for the tension in the movie to never cease and for making him a good counterweight to the story's hero. Still, there isn't much more. Jin Se-yeon, otherwise mainly seen in drama shows, is used to mirror Hak-soo and maybe is supposed to depict something like a possible love interest. But especially when it comes to her the screenplay's weakness becomes apparent as it does every time individuals are shed some light on. In other respects the script isn't exactly covering itself in glory either. There are a few liberties taken concerning the true events, but we are willing to overlook this, if the movie would manage to be captivating.

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However, "Operation Chromite" is only truely captivating in the first half. The espionage aspect is put to good use and during the action scenes the strong points of the directing comes to bear as well. Later on, a melee fight and a pseudo-epic battle doesn't convince that much. A big problem is that the movie is after all incredibly predictable. You can anticipate almost every detail of what's going to happen next. The underlining score is often too corny and the use of a photograph and a few flashbacks in order to commemorate the fallen soldiers are simply too hackneyed for anyone to consider this flick a truely good movie. Furthermore, "Operation Chromite" wants to be bigger concerning its budget than it actually is and thus makes it collapse under its own weight. This bisection into well done scenes at the beginning and overflowing kitsch towards the end is frustrating. And with his "A Moment to Remember" Lee has already proven that he can handle kitsch quite well and with "71: Into the Fire" he has proven that he can also deliver a good war movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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