OLDBOY REVIEW by Liam Jennings
Part 2 in the Vengeance trilogy, Oldboy was an outstanding achievement across the board. Receiving Grand Prix Award at the 2004 Cannes film festival, and currently ranked 112 on IMBD’s top 250 of all time, Director Park Chan-wook proved that he was one to keep an eye on.
Based on the Japanese Manga by Nobuaki Minegishi, the main distinction is that the adaptation swaps the bustle of Tokyo to the streets of Seoul South Korea.
On the day of his daughters birthday, Oldboy tells the story of Oh Dae-su a fourty something drunk who we find being bailed out from over night lock up by his old friend Joo-Hwan, who treats it like a regular occurance. After a short intoxicated talk with his daughter over the phone, he is quickly snatched up for reasons that are unknown to him.
Oh Dae-su awakes to find himself in a small room where he will remain for 15 years.
Within this time OH Dae-su has nothing but time on his hands. Being unsure of any reasons for why he would be locked up. He decides to write a journal of everybody he has ever hurt in his life in order to track down whoever has done this to him and find out why. With only a television to keep track of world events he discovers that a lot can happen in fifteen years.
One morning De-su awakes to find himself free with only his diaries at his side, here he meets a man ready to throw himself off a building who asks the question “even if I am no better than a beast, don’t I have the right to live”? From here on Dae-su walks a savagely orchestrated path set by villain Woo-jin who quickly identifies himself at the beginning of the film. To find the truth behind his incarceration and get his revenge on the man who stole his life, Oh Dae-su must infiltrate the darkest seediest corners of the underworld.
Oldboy is about Oh Dae-su’s place in the world, from a man who once spent his life drinking it away, he muse clear his mind and uncover what the reasons were.
Oldboy isn’t a success because of the story alone, this is a big call, but I find Oldboy is a perfect film, the cinematography, the acting, the haunting score by Jo Yeong-Wook, the pacing, the make-up & FX, everything about this film screams for praise. There is also an unforgettable scene involving a live octopus. The orchestral score builds the film as an opera and it is directed as such, the romance and intrigue blended with smart plot twists and hidden meanings are scattered throughout. This is a film you will read into no end.
This film is the second part in Chan-wooks Vengeance trilogy, first being Sympathy for mr. Vengeance and finally Lady Vengeance. These films are not a direct series, they are only connected by that one theme, Vengeance, and the different ways one can act out on this. Oldboys tale is sleek and beautiful ,as it is brutal and sickening. This is a second viewing film, one that you will pound your head into your table throughout those once heartfelt and beautiful scenes. Also within this film is in my opinion the finest fight scene ever filmed which took three days to perfect and is utterly breathtaking.
This is a film that hounds the viewer, one that sits in the corner with all its teeth bared and just bites you every time you think you have figured it out. Oh dae-su’s progression is a strange one, an escheresque path which twists the viewer through his eyes. As he draws to a conclusion those words “even if you are no better than a beast, do you still deserve the right to live” are at their most remarkable.
Oldboy has spawned countless imitators, a Bollywood film named Zinda and an American Remake is in the works by Steven Spielberg and Will Smith is set to star, which would surely be atrocious.
Park Chan-wook has certainly achieved the unbelievable with this picture, he reinvented the Noir film, put South Korea on the filmmaking scene and set a new bar to where a film can take a viewer. A must watch modern classic.5/5 - Liam
4/5 - Luke