South Korean Thriller ‘Operation Chromite’ Is Weirdly Enamored With General MacArthur


The kind of robust nationalism usually emitted by sousaphones and Toby Keith is an unforced display of identity that often seems weird to foreign tourists baffled by the flag waving over Waffle House. South Korean production Operation Chromite takes all its cues from such American pop-culture patriotism to melodramatize the dangerous intelligence operation that led to the Battle of Inchon. The result is like something Michael Bay might produce at his least self-indulgent.

Korean action star Lee Jung-jae plays Jang Hak-su, a South Korean spy who leads a group of volunteers to steal North Korean tactical maps of the Inchon seaport. Disguised as a North Korean commander, he draws the suspicion of a ridiculously evil North Korean general (Lee Beom-soo); when Jang and his cohorts’ cover is blown, they join forces with the South Korean resistance to finish the job. It’s mostly a true story, with the addition of fistfights and truck chases.

Director John H. Lee includes lush photography, large-scale CG battle scenes, and a cartoony opposition of Korean adversaries and political philosophies. The film also deifies American general Douglas MacArthur with a portrayal by the film’s most expensive asset, Liam Neeson, which is hilariously funny in its tin-eared dialogue and country-pulpit earnestness. Forget that Neeson is the wrong nationality; the corncob pipe makes the man. He actually looks like the kinds of monuments Americans make for themselves, as if he were blasted with dynamite out of a rocky escarpment.

South Korean reverence for MacArthur and the U.S. military is evident here in the same way that “Our Warmest Congratulations on Your Graduation” is evident in a Hallmark card.

Operation Chromite
Directed by John H. Lee

Taewon Entertainment

Opens August 12, AMC Empire 25