By Tom LaVenture
Asian American Press
The challenge of bringing a war to the screen is that a film doesn’t usually live up to the real story — but the Korean War action/drama “Operation Chromite” reveals a lesser known story of Korean heroes who paved the way for the allied landing that would save the republic.
Directed by John H. Lee, “Operation Chromite” (CJ Entertainment, Rated R, 123 Minutes, DVD/Blu-ray release Jan. 24, 2017) tells the story of the American led United Nations Security Forces invasion of Incheon in September 1950 — described as one of the most risky but successful amphibious landings in military history — from the perspective of the South Koreans.
The film, both in English and Korean language versions on the DVD, has South Korean Navy Special Forces Captain Jang Hak-soo (Lee Jung-jae) and his seven-member Korean Liaison Office (KLO) unit infiltrating the North Korean military command center at Incheon to report intelligence that will help plan the United Nations landing.
Liam Neeson is convincing as U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur, who remained in command of the occupation of Japan following World War II. The Cold War divided the Korean peninsula at the 48th parallel creating the communist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, and the Republic of Korea in the south.
When the north invaded the south in June 1950 the United Nations stepped in to defend the republic against the north that was supported by Soviet Union and China.
The film begins as military officials in MaCarthur’s command and in Washington question his rationale to attempt a landing at Incheon with its narrow channel and tides that would trap ships in the mud. The preferred landing points were on several points of the eastern Korea and what MacArthur called predictable.
The film dramatizes the exploits of the eight Korean soldiers in their efforts to thwart the ruthless North Korean commander Lim Gye-jin (Lee Bum-soo). The film goes to great lengths to show the communists brutal indoctrination tactics and public executions to rule through through fear of death.
In the end MacArthur’s fleet sails through hurricane winds to the Incheon passage after the infiltrators secured a mine placement chart from the communists. Before moving in MacArthur awaits the signal from the infiltrators with them capturing and lighting the lamp in the Palmido lighthouse to confirm that shore defenses were sabotaged and that the way was clear the for 261 warships to land 75,000 U.N. troops.
With Incheon secured, McArthur could move the allied forces across the 48th parallel and cut the communist forces off from their own supply routes. The film ends before China enters the war, MacArthur’s recall from President Harry Truman and the cease fire agreement that divides the country to the present day.
At the 2016 Grand Bell Awards (Motion Pictures Association of South Korea), Lee Beom-soo won the Popularity Award for his role in Operation Chromite. Kim Hee-jin won the New Rising Star Award and was nominated for Best New Actor for his role in the film.