There are certain films made to entertain. There are films made to tell a story with fantastic characters. There are films that have underlying life meanings meant to change your outlook on how you view the world. There are very few movies that do all three. "Oldboy" not only does all three, but it makes it look like second nature as it easily balances them never loses its footing and always remaining sleek.
Dae-Su (Min-sik Choi) took his life, his wife, and daughter for granted. Someone else knew it too. Someone with a chip on their shoulder against Dae-Su. One day Dae-Su finds himself imprisoned in some sort of hotel room. That one day quickly turns to 15 years and while his sanity is pushed to the edge, the person keeping him won't let him out or kill himself. Then out of the blue, he is released back into a world that has moved on without him. He is consumed with vengeance to the person that is done this to him. Given a few clues and spurred on by a mystery that reaches further than he could imagine, Dae-Su has to find a life worthy of his vengeance.
There are a few directors out in this world that I will stand behind pretty much no matter what. Park Chan Wook is one of them. His amazing ability to blend style and substance into his films is something that everyone should admire and appreciate. "Oldboy" is a prime example of this. Although the tale itself is a fascinating journey inside the human mind and the bare emotions that run with it as we watch this one man have to essentially rediscover life itself, its the execution onscreen that really makes this film a wonder to watch. Between the stunningly awesome acting of our lead Choi and his entire supporting cast (including a well paced and delivered neo-noir voice over narration) and Park Chan Wook's amazingly timed shots, editing, and knack for showing us instead of telling us style of modern Hitchcock-ian presence, "Oldboy" delivers onscreen easily. It's paced damn near perfectly and it builds so tensely that by the time the final reveal is made (the twist end is definitely a shocker) it has stripped its audience of their own inhibitions and leaves them feeling vulnerable. It's this kind of experience that so many films don't even dare try to accomplish anymore.
From its initial oddly edited and darkly humorous drunken brawl at a police station to its tiring side scrolling never edited hammer/gang hallway fight sequence to its final twist that will have you cringing in awkwardness, "Oldboy" is a smash film from the first second on. Unafraid to take some very strange turns and chances with its plot, including an odd ant sequence that makes your skin twitch, this film just deserves as much praise as I can possibly give it. Ballsy, dark, funny, and completely unapologetic, "Oldboy" is some of the best that modern cinema has yet to create. An instant classic.
If there is one foreign film out there (or any film for that matter) that you need to see next, its "Oldboy".
Written By Matt Reifschneider
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