The British director Alan Parker, the man behind ‘Bugsy Malone’,’Evita’, ‘Fame’ and ‘The Commitments’ has recently gone on record complaining of the difficulty of raising finance for his films in the UK. So the clunkily titled ‘Operation Chromite’ , a South Korean financed film, has cast Liam Neeson as its key international selling point in an otherwise subtitled film. In fairness dumping a two hour script called ‘Operation Chromite’ on a film financiers desk is hardly a selling point when the first question to be asked would be, ‘What the hell is Operation Chromite?’ It’s a fair point and we’ve had a few war films this year such as ‘Anthropoid’ whose titles make little sense. In fact ‘Operation Chromite’s’ original title was, ‘In-cheon sang ryuk jak jeon’, a title that trips off the tongue and falls flat on its face. The title concerns a little known but crucial op during the Korean War whose success was pivotal to General MacArthur’s plan to launch a sea invasion. It’s been filmed before in 1981 as, ‘Inchon’, an utterly disastrous and immensely expensive film funded by the Moonies and costing $46m it made a paltry $5m. It was directed by early Bond director Terence Young and starring Laurence Olivier as MacArthur and won the Razzie award for the worst film of the year. Fortunately ‘Operation Chromite’ is not on that same level of awfulness.
Focusing on the 8 man unit dressed as serving North Korean army officers to infiltrate the ranks of the platoon who guard the Inchon part of the coast and the unit have to have to find out where they have laid the mines so that the attack from sea can take place. From the very start the platoons commanding officer is suspicious of this new unit and is played with almost stereotypically inscrutable oriental villainous style and is perpetually smoking between bouts of ruthless brutality.
This is one of those ‘inspired by true events’ stories rather than an, ‘everything you’re about to watch actually happened’, because it’s doubtful whether there was a Tarantino-esque Mexican stand-off between a group of officers as seen here. The operation however is utterly intriguing but it’s the set backs which the unit continually suffer that make it incredible that the plan succeeded which is not to spoil an already known outcome. Unfortunately with an A list star the film is forced to cut away from the unit at work, (which is easily the best part of the film) to Neeson as an unintentionally hilarious MacArthur . Sporting a dyed thinning comb over he stands tall like an Easter Island effigy wearing aviator shades and spouting home spun philosophy and uttering such duff lines as,‘And God said, ‘Let there be light!’, that his reading of the script must have been obscured by piles of money. Choppily edited with mediocre effects and a music score that at one point never seems to shut up and over whelms rather than compliments a scene. It’s a shame that the film didn’t just focus on the units operation.
Here’s the trailer…….