The story of General Douglas MacArthur’s daring and massive surprise attack during the Korean War makes for a captivating and action-filled movie called “Battle for Incheon: Operation Chromite” (CJ Entertainment Blu-ray $19.99 on Jan. 24; digital on-demand services Jan. 10).
Liam Neeson is perfectly cast as the tall and commanding military leader looking for one last battlefield triumph.
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As big and explosive as the many battle scenes are, it’s the little-told back-story and perspective of the heroic South Korean soldiers who executed the critical advance espionage groundwork that is the most enticing and even mildly poignant element of the film. It’s all the more engaging and even patriotic when one understands that this is a South Korean production.
In fact, the most expensive Korean film of 2016 was a summer blockbuster, grossing nearly $50 million in that country alone but it got very little marketing push or attention here in the U.S., as well as below-average reviews from critics. While criticism of the wooden dialogue and earnest story is somewhat justified, the heart of the epic saga, and the compelling characters, as well as the battle scenes, make any shortcomings easy to overlook.
Navy Lieutenant Jang Hak-soo as portrayed by Lee Jung-jae (“Assassination,” “New World,” “The Thieves,” “The Housemaid”) is particularly engaging. Hak-soo heads a covert eight-man operation team devised by MacArthur, who has been appointed head of the United Nations Command at the height of the war.
The team of South Korean soldiers are dispatched on what many consider to be a suicide mission code-named Operation Chromite to infiltrate North Korean headquarters far behind enemy lines.
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President Truman and other military leaders were not happy about MacArthur’s proposal to risk so many lives and escalate the war — the 1950 invasion through a narrow and shallow sea channel and onto the beaches under the light of only a single lighthouse (if it could be captured) required 75,000 U.N. troops and 261 warships.
The courageous “X-Ray” intelligence unit found themselves pitted against not only ruthless North Korean commander Lim Gye-jin (Lee Bum-soo, “The Divine Move,” “IRIS: New Generation,” “The City of Violence”), but the Russian and Chinese troops supporting them.
The two-hour R-rated film directed ambitiously by John H. Lee (“The Third Way of Love,” “The Last Stand,” and “Into the Fire”), also stars Jin Se-Yun as Han Chae-sun.
Also notable is Sean Dulake (“Dramaworld”) as English-speaking Korean Lt. Col. Edward L. Rowny, MacArthur’s right-hand man in every tense moment on-and-off-the-battlefield (at left in photo below).
American-born-and-raised Dulake also wrote the English dialogue for the film, including Neeson’s. He and Dulake are the primary characters who speak in English.
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The Blu-ray edition offers the best dialogue options, with the default position set for the voices of the Korean actors to be dubbed in English. But you may prefer, as I did, to hear and see the actors actual voices in Korean with English subtitles, an easy click option on Blu-ray. In the latter mode, the English actors still speak in their native tongue.
A four-minute making-of bonus feature is also included, featuring comments from Neeson and English-subtitled Korean actors and director Lee.
— By Scott Hettrick