Oldboy (2003)

 

Written by Jo-yun Hwang, Chun-hyeong Lim & Chan-wook Park; Directed by Chan-wook Park

Will Most Likely Contain Spoilers!!!

I’d heard great things about this from fellow Filmspotters, so when it popped up on the marathon I was excited, though I managed to know nothing of the plot prior to seeing it. While it wasn’t in the vein og mind-blowing necessarily, it was definitely not without its effects. A man, Dae-su Oh(Min-sik Choi), is imprisoned for 15 years. He becomes suspected for killing his wife, though he is innocent. But that is not why he has been imprisoned. And why was he let go after 15 years? These are the things that he sets out to find the answers to, with a little sense of vengeance to go with it too. Along the way he meets a girl, Mi-do, who helps him in his journey and with whom he falls in love.

I personally loved the story. As disturbing and strange as it became by the end, it was something to behold and actually beautifully deranged. In terms of how it kept up with the marathon, it did make you think and try and figure everything out. Why did/were these things happen, what are the motives of Evergreen a.k.a. Woo-jin Lee(Ji-tae Yu). But things were eventually explained, at least somewhat, and I my mind wasn’t left hurting for that reason, but for the sick results.

The film was very well made I thought. The score was something that complimented the tone of the film well. The electronic parts were cool and slick, which matched up with the visual style of most of the film. And the more traditional parts matched up well with the understated moments in the film. The angles and shots Park capture are quite good and interesting. The style helps match the violent and fast paced film. Violence doesn’t usually do it for me, but every once in a while, a violent film will come along that does. There is something about how Dae-su goes through town and finds his answers that is very fun to watch, as disturbing as it can be. I was behind him the whole way through. What did he do to deserve this? When we find out, it is quite the violent climax of the film. This man, Woo-jin, is an evil and misled man. He himself is seeking revenge on Dae-su for seeing him molest/”love” his own sister. Dae-su starts a rumor that she is pregnant. She kills herself, though Woo-jin is holding on to her at the dam, yet he listens to her when she asks that he let her go. This is a great shot, which mirrors the opening shot/dilemma of the film.

We then also learn that Woo-jin is a mastermind. He spent the 15 years Dae-su was locked up raising Dae-su’s daughter and hypnotizing them both for events to unfold in a specific manner upon Dae-su’s release. They do and we later find out that Mi-do is Dae-su’s daughter. This is sick and disturbing, but within the story makes perfect sense. And the key to the film is that, even after the rumors were spread, Woo-jin and his sister still loved each other. And in the end so too did Mi-do, who never found out, and Dae-su.

The way the film was constructed, the way the film was made was great. The film was great. The acting, especially Min-sik Choi(Dae-su) and Ji-tae Yu(Woo-jin) was remarkable. I usually don’t notice acting in foreign films because I am too busy keeping up with the story through the subtitles, but here it was dubbed. And this is one of the few dubbed films that hasn’t bothered me because it was fueled by the energy of the film. It was obvious dubbing, but I was able to ignore that really and enjoy the film. Dae-su’s voiceover parts were actually really good dubbed because of the tone of voice the actor was using. A great experience. Until last night I was still under the impression that Spielberg and Smith were still making a remake, but I learned that this is not true. I’ll be one of the very few fans of this film who is counted among the disappointed. Would it have been a bloated Hollywood crap interpretation? Probably, but the story is so strong that I think I still would have enjoyed myself. But this was a powerful film that I will not soon forget.

**** – Masterpiece

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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