Director Rob Cohen, whose last journey behind the camera was the abysmally unambitious “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” is hardly known for feminist cinematic screeds, unless you count all the bits where Jessica Biel opens her mouth in “Stealth.” Added to this his other, self-consciously none-more-macho films — “xXx” and the first “Fast the Furious” picture — while spawning a clutch of sequels between them, aren’t exactly heralded as action genre classics in the way, say, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Predator” are. So he’s probably not the first person you’d think of if you were a hot-shot producer looking for a director to helm a project about the Korean War. Enough people clearly felt differently, though, as THR notes that Cohen’s signed on to direct “1950,” a film based on the reportage of Marguerite Higgins – a Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune – who covered some of the conflict’s most important historical events, blazing a trail for females in her profession as she went. Her journey across the Korean peninsula with an American platoon, which culminated in the bulk evacuation of nearly 200,000 South Koreans from the advancing armies of the Chinese and North Koreans on Christmas Eve, is set to form the backbone of the film.
The project is set up at CJ E&M Pictures of Korea and Grapevine Entertainment, and is being touted as the biggest budgeted film in the history of the Korean film industry, clocking in at a rosy $100 million. Producer Brett Donowho and executive producer Paul Hudon have developed the story, while Rachel Long and Brian Pittman – both credited writers on Donowho’s upcoming directorial effort “Silver Falls” – have been commissioned to pen the screenplay proper.
Says Cohen of the project, “The Korean War has often been referred to as ‘the forgotten war’ and I think it’s time it was remembered. Telling the story of this harrowing conflict through the eyes of pioneering journalist Marguerite Higgins makes it a very different war film on every level.”
The film and television iterations of “M*A*S*H” aside, Cohen has a decent point and though his past credentials don’t exactly scream dynamism, he’s a safe pair of hands if “workmanlike” is what you’re after in a director. Whether using a figure as historically significant as Higgins will simply be gender tokenism and/or a way to sell the picture to international audiences isn’t yet clear, though she continues to be celebrated in South Korea; just last year being posthumously awarded one of the country’s most prestigious national medals — the Heunginjang.
Though this seems like an ambitious undertaking, certainly it can’t be any more horrifying or miscalculated than the last time an action director waded flat-footedly into historically sensitive subject matter and bungled it so spectacularly so as to trivialize an entire war (yes, this is a reference to “Pearl Harbor.”) Before Cohen valiantly tackles the Korean War, he’s got the equally dubious James Patterson adaptation — “I, Alex Cross” — starring Tyler Perry to worry about, while “1950” is expected to begin filming in May of next year for a Spring 2013 release date.