Have you been dreaming of a South Korean war epic, starring Liam Neason? Well, today’s your lucky day my friend! This certainly isn’t the usual home release you tend to come across, but out of sheer interest, I decided to give it a look. To some interesting results.
Based on true events (but fairly loosely I’d suspect), it takes place in 1950, when North Korea under the support of the Soviet Union, invaded South Korea. They had taken the majority of the country with only a small portion holding a resistance. Heading this were spies hiding within the ranks of the North Korean Army. To support the landing of UN forces led by the U.S. Army, a small group of freedom fighters were tasked with providing information held secret by the high ranks within North Korea.
It starts on a topic that was very interesting, a moment in wartime history that I had very little knowledge about and in the post WWII era when battles for land were fought around the world. This is certainly an epic war movie, highlighting plenty of acts of heroism and sacrifice.
The opening part is set at a furious pace, throwing a hell of a lot of information upon the audience and covering aspects that to be honest, were pointed at the intended audience in South Korea. It is important to keep that in mind, and I don’t think this pacing is a sign of bad script writing or direction. It does demand you to keep attention on what is being said and what the structure of the opposing armies is however, so get ready for some fast subtitle reading.
That opening act is quite interesting however. Not to the point of reeling you in and keeping you totally invested, but setting up the plans and showing the main players fairly well. The costumes, set design, and locations are definitely a stand out point here, they look exceptionally believable and thought-out. Of course it’s fair to say that any war movie that doesn’t meet the standard in this area gets an automatic penalty, but when it is done well, it keeps the immersion in the world more easy.
The performances by the primarily-Korean cast are quite good. Maybe a little stereotyped and lacking real depths in personality, but enough to keep the movie moving along. You can tell they are putting a lot into their respective roles, and that effort does shine through at least to the effect of making up for the lacking in the defined character sets. I suppose it should be unsurprising that the American roles are pretty damm bad, with Liam Neason being the worst of the lot. He spends the whole time chomping at the end of a smoking pipe, throwing out lame one-liners and tired phrases. He was probably paid well for appearing in here but Christ, this is one appearance he won’t want to look back on.
Being a war epic, there’s plenty of action sequences to fill up between the plot progression. Some of them are quite good – well shot and incorporating some neat ideas, but on the majority they can be unrealistically patriotic. I mean that in the idea of a handful of freedom fighters taking out fifty enemies with ease, I mean come on. Fans of simple action will be able to cast that aside and enjoy the explosions, and for a while I was too. But it reaches a point where it was too much, especially as this side clashes badly with the serious tones set by the rest of the narrative.
You could draw a lot of similarities between this and a Second World War spy flick, but with there being only a few years between the events then, and those inspired from here, you can see why that might happen. There were parts I appreciated, the history which was interesting, and the relatively good home-grown cast who put a lot into their roles. But there much too that is a bit clumsy, the overall transition of the storyline is very cliche, the American performances are kind of trash, and did I mention the CG of the ships during the big finale? It was bloody horrid to gaze upon.
“Operation Chromite” was a very interesting piece of history, a near-suicide mission when things were at their very worst. Sadly, the movie doesn’t quite capture that to its fullest extent. But… at least it was different, and not just the same material being re-used over and over again that is happening so often by studios in the West. At least on that point, you might find enough here to give it a watch.
Thanks for reading!