FF65 - Battle of Inchon (Operation Chromite)

Hey everyone! Producer Rob popping in before the episode to say ”Thank you so much for helping us reach and pass our goal during MaxFun Drive! We made it! So be on the lookout for that pork chop feed! Thanks everyone! Here's the episode.”

Intro by Rob Schulte

Today's film is about a conflict that has transmogrified into an asymmetric nuclear Cold War that is still with us today. But at one time, the Korean War was a boots-on-the-ground hot conflict that we came very close to losing. Operation Chromite was a Hail Mary maneuver that General Douglas MacArthur oversaw to re-invade the Korean peninsula and cut off the supply lines of Kim Il Sung's armies which had nearly run the allies and the anti-Communist Koreans into the sea.

In today's film we see MacArthur, one of our most colorful generals, portrayed by Liam Neeson, an actor with a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career, skills that make him a nightmare for a movie like this. He is a big important figure in the history this film portrays and if you are in the U.S. you might have seen posters and trailers that imply that he is the star of the film, but he is really just a prestigious B-story that seems to be present to make this film marketable to Western audiences, because this is a Korean film with a Korean cast and most of it is in Korea.

Our main character Jang is the ex-communist leader of a crack infiltration-squad who we meet on a train headed for Incheon. Using concertina wire and the elements of surprise, they murder and then impersonate a communist officer and his retinue who are being stationed in Incheon on some kind of inspection mission. The primary bad guy is Senior Colonel Lim, who has close ties to the fearless leader Kim Il Sung. He has maps and information about how the Incheon Harbor has been mined to prevent amphibious attacks and our intrepid spies need to extract that information to transmit it to the Americans who would very much like to invade Incheon.

Almost everything these spies do goes badly and we are left wondering if these mishaps are historical or whether they are just necessary antecedents to the frenetic action sequences that this film is replete with. Through helplessness and ineptitude characters are killed and some are captured and tortured. What seems like a perfectly good plan to steal the intelligence crumbles and falls apart about halfway through the film and the team becomes more and more desperate as zero hour approaches. It all leads to the inevitable landing in which almost every character in the squad sacrifices himself to make successful the invasion.

This film was made for the Korean market, but with an eye on palatability to audiences in the US, so it is interesting to see the depiction of MacArthur as eccentric and bullheaded, but ultimately super-capable and great, and the Kim loyalist evil Colonel being super-good at his job and suspicious of spies the moment they show up, while at the same time Jang and all of the South Korean good guys are depicted as well-meaning and earnest, but kind of bad at their job. The film makes the case for them having just barely done this one all-important mission and that if they hadn't, the whole invasion might have been a disaster.

From 2016 and directed by John H Lee: What MacArthur wants is to be the president, that is why he needs a miracle of 5000:1. Today on Friendly Fire: Battle of Inchon, Operation Chromite.

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