Liam Neeson takes on North Korea

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2.5 out of 4 stars

After spending the past five years battling human traffickers in the Taken franchise, the mob in Run All Night, terrorists in Non-Stop, assassins in Unknown, aliens in Battleship and cold-blooded killers in A Walk Among the Tombstones, Liam Neeson has another foe: North Korea.

operation-chromiteNeeson, 64, plays the role of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur in Operation Chromite, which chronicles the events leading to the Battle of Inchon in September 1950 that’s considered the turning point of the Korean War. The movie sets the tone by focusing on South Korea’s early failed attempts to infiltrate North Korean troops to gain key intelligence that would lead to overall victory. South Korean spy Jang Hak-su (Lee Jung-jae) is tasked with convincing the North Koreans he’s one of them. The problem: North Korea’s top general, Lee Gye-jin (played by Lee Beom-soo), isn’t buying Jang’s claim.

It’s easy to cheer for Jang and his countrymen because they are the underdogs – and everyone loves underdogs, especially when they are fighting tyranny. It’s Jang and his men’s job to acquire a coveted. North Korean Army-owned map that charts all of the mines off the coast of Incheon.

The way MacArrthur sees it, if Jang’s unit accomplishes its mission — called Operation X-ray — then he’d know exactly where to send troops where they’ll have the best chance for successful against the North Koreans, who had pushed the South Koreans to the edge of the peninsula.

Neeson doesn’t make bad movies; even his worst ones are above average. But Operation Chromite delivers the Holy Trinity that’s become mandatory for all of Neeson’s flims: bullets, blood and blow-ups. However, they aren’t better than what Neeson’s fans have come to expect from his previous work. Neeson can do only so much when the computer-generated imagery looks like its from the early 2000s.

Director John H. Lee had a major opportunity to deliver a poignant picture about perhaps the most defining battle in Korean history, yet the nearly two-hour film could have used another 15 minutes of fighting to illustrate the odds the South Koreans overcame to ensure their freedom.

General MacArthur with his aids and fellow commanders at the Inchon Landing. (Wikipedia)
General MacArthur with his aids and fellow commanders at the Inchon Landing. (Wikipedia)

Regardless, Operation Chromite plays out as expected. Miraculously, the South Koreans evade death and destruction, while MacArthur’s painted as a genius.

Was this really the case? Who knows? Who cares? Operation Chromite lands somewhere between an action movie and a documentary, which isn’t a compliment. The film, which hits U.S. theaters on Aug. 12, was released in South Korea on July 27, the 63rd anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, which ended the Korean War.

But Hollywood has never shied away from letting the facts get in the way of a good movie, which is a fair description for Neeson’s latest work.