Oldboy is 2003 Korean thriller is listed in CNN’s top ten best Asian films ever made. Directed by critically acclaimed Park Chan-wook based on a manga named “Oldboy” by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi, Oldboy is celebrated for its intriguing plot, intense performances and the final twist that is so disturbing that one will literally lose their appetite for hours. Okay! I rather not give anything more away.
The movie is about an alcoholic Businessman Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), who is estranged from his wife and daughter. His arrogant and bizarre behavior earns him more enemies than friends. One day he is arrested for drunkenness, thus missing his daughter’s 4th birthday. After being released, he goes to call his daughter from a phone booth, where he is kidnapped and rendered unconscious. He wakes up in a sealed hotel room where he is served with food through a trapdoor and has a TV for company. He learns that his wife is murdered and that he is the prime suspect. Dae-su passes time by learning shadow-boxing, plans revenge and an escape strategy. 15 years later, he is again rendered unconscious and he finds himself on a rooftop with money and a suit. He receives a phone that taunts him into finding out who his captors are and to find the reason for his imprisonment. He meets a sushi chef named Mi-do (Kaye Hye-jung) who helps in his ordeal.
The synopsis is bizarre yet interesting as it depicts an anti-hero’s journey looking for revenge and redemption as he kept his family apart through his alcoholism. Dae-su faced torturing and suffering but at the end, he had to pay a huge price for every wrong deed he committed. That being said, everything about this movie lies in the final twist, that puts this movie in the category of “so bad that it is good”, or the reverse scenario. Leaving game of thrones aside, personally as a viewer, I have to admit that this is one of the most enthralling films that dealt with the taboo subject. At the same time, it is very difficult to call Oldboy a great movie. The beginning was lifeless as it was difficult to accept the storyline; a man being locked up in a room for 15 years. Afterward, we are engrossed in the suspense where Dae-su and Mi-do investigate the intention behind his imprisonment and torture. Depiction of Dae-su’s plight reveals his animal instinct, like when he eats the live Octopus, the scene where he expresses his sexual libido to Mi-do and frustration towards his captors.
Choi Min-sik’s performance is excellent with depth, he added wholesomeness as well as a sense of detestation, because of which we will not feel sorry for Dae-su as per the plotline. His seriousness, manic characteristics, and the final conflict earned him the spot, way beyond the Hollywood version; one of the major reasons why Oldboy (2013) is despised by the audience and critics. However, the character Mi-do is less impressive compared to Olsen’s version as the latter is more interesting in terms of performance and her involvement in Oldboy’s life. Kang Hye-jung did a sincere job and stuck well to Mi-do’s characteristics as per the script but she is more annoying than interesting due to her overly emotional and childish nature. Yoo Ji-tae deserves the crown for his portrayal as the antagonist, he portrays someone who went crazy due to his lust and passion towards his alleged lover, because of which we feel sorry for him, we understand (not justify) his insane quest fo revenge. Oldboy is taken in a typical action movie style with visuals and cuts that give it ’90s’ touch, which worked in a way for a movie that features someone who was locked up during the ’90s. There are many iconic moments like the hallway fight scene where Dae-su fights over 2 dozen men. Everything about a typical Korean film is written all over; the martial arts sequences, graphic sex scenes and the cinematography, which has the light touch. It provided the first-person account of visuals as it followed the POV of each character. Editing, which gave the first person account, worked with the music that had a symphony-styled soundtrack, resembling the antagonist’s sadistic mindset as well as Dae-su’s conflicts.
Oldboy is a good thriller that keeps you engrossed but the plot twist can put you at uneasy mood, owing to the way it is developed throughout the film. You will either love it, or hate it.
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