Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 10, 2017)
Laurence Olivier played one of his final film roles in 1981ís Inchon, a massively expensive South Korean-produced war epic. The movie bombed horribly and suffered huge financial losses.
45 years later, another movie looks at the subject Ė and boasts another aging Anglo actor to boot. With 2016ís The Battle for Incheon: Operation Chromite, Liam Neeson takes over for Olivier as General Douglas MacArthur.
Battle takes place in 1950 and views the early days of the Korean War. After North Korean forces run roughshod over South Korea, US General MacArthur creates a plan to get the South Koreans back in the battle.
As part of this, MacArthur forms a special team led by Lieutenant Hak-soo Jang (Lee Jung-Jae) to go behind enemy lines. This squad intends to infiltrate North Korean intelligence and set the stage for a MacArthur-orchestrated naval attack.
Though I remember the negativity and sense of failure that surrounded Inchon 35 years ago, I never saw the movie. As such, I canít compare it to Battle and deem which one handles events in the superior manner.
That said, I find it tough to believe Inchon couldíve done much worse than Battle. Stiff, awkward and consistently dull, the 2016 movie becomes a slow journey to nowhere.
Which seems almost shocking given all the action and intrigue the movie displays. From the spy mission that occupies the filmís first half to the military invasion that fills its second, Battle packs in all sorts of material that should involve and stimulate the viewer.
Unfortunately, the end result fails to serve any of these goals, as it seems unconvincing and plodding. The spy narrative fails to get off the ground, as the filmmakers canít find a way to make any of these events dynamic. We trace the infiltratorsí path in a loopy, sluggish way that doesnít develop the narrative in a clear sense or give us any real intrigue Ė we just bide our time as we await the military action.
When the forces do attack, Battle gives us a little greater drama Ė but just a little. To be honest, we just donít care enough about the participants to fully invest in the warfare.
That comes back to the many flaws of the first hour or so, as the movie sets up its participants in such a lackluster manner that we donít find ourselves involved in their tales. The characters come across as generic and one-sided, without much to flesh out the narrative or prompt an emotional response.
Because of this, when violent events occur, weíre left at armís length. If we donít fret about the fates of the characters, we donít have much onto which we can hang our hats.
For the most part, the actors perform in a competent manner, though Neeson seems disinterested as MacArthur. Granted, I canít blame him, as the movie sticks Neeson with an awful lot of wooden, unconvincing dialogue, but even so, it feels like the actor lets his corncob pipe do the heavy lifting for him.
One senses Neeson viewed Battle as nothing more than a paycheck, and I canít fault him. While the movie tells a story that boasts considerable potential, it lacks the skill and conviction to give us anything more than a cheesy, stiff melodrama.