The Attempted Review of Oldboy

Posted by WhenYourGodGivesYouLemons On 8:07 PM

Taking out the 2004 Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival certainly gives a film some credit. It was certainly enough to get me interested in seeing this cult Korean film from director Chanwook Park and made it the film I wanted to see the most out of the ones I purchased the other day.

What it's All About... Oldboy follows the story of Dae-su Oh a businessman in Korea. After a night of drinking on his daughter's birthday Dae-su is kidnapped by mysterious strangers and imprisoned for 15 years. He is never told why or by who and his only contact with the outside world outside of the random druggings he endures is through the TV in the corner. Eventually he begins to accept that the only way he'll get out of his prison is by breaking out and he begins to train himself to fight and dig his way out. Then all of a sudden he is released and given the task of seeking out why he was imprisoned but even though he has been freed he still hasn't regained control of his life as his captor is closer than he thinks and is watching and anticipating his every move. Along the way Dae-su must confront his past and seek out the secrets that lie hidden there so he can identify his captor and identify why he was imprisoned for 15 years. His body will be pushed to the limits both physically and mentally as he seeks to answer the most pressing question, why?

What it Did Well... It starts off amazingly, with Dae-su Oh holding onto a man's shirt after he tried to jump off a building. The man asks what his name is and the story starts from there. It's such an exciting way to begin a film, I was wondering who these people were and why he was holding onto a man dangling over the side of a building and it instantly had me hooked. The whole story was brilliant, weaving this tale of revenge but never telling you who is really getting revenge, and the way Dae-su's life is played with is brilliant. I can see why it won the 2004 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes as the story is full of twists and turns and leaves you guessing the whole time whilst it raises some interesting issues like love and what it means, the idea of imprisonment both figuratively and realistically and questions what does venegenace really achieve, what happens when you get revenge and is their anything worth living for after that. I loved the way Dae-su was so smart from watching TV and would just spout out random facts he'd learnt and the montage of the years ticking by and the events happening on the TV was fantastic. Dae-su's character was always rather stunning. When we first meet him he is a rambling drunk but after 15 years he undergoes a transformation, the imprisonment brings focus to his life as he now has a purpose and a goal, revenge. The first scenes after his release are quite amazing as he becomes reaquinted with the sight and smells of other people and he eats something other than fried dumplings for the first time, an unfortunate octopus, which is all to express he is alive and wants to consume life after having so much of his own taken away from him. The action was brutal and realistic yet not senseless, everything was an act of expression or meaning. The tooth pulling scene was sadistic but after being held captive for 15 years without being told why wouldn't you want to exact painful revenge on the person who had done it?

What it Didn't... Unfortunately some of the subtitles were terrible. They didn't translate from Korean to English very well so certain sentences didn't make sense and you were left trying to decipher what it was supposed to say and then you'd miss the next sentence. Also the ending seemed like a little bit of a cop-out to me. Throughout the film some serious themes and issues had been bought up which Dae-Su had to deal with and half the enjoyment of the film was seeing these things torment him until he eventally overcame them and I think the overall impact of this torment and the meaning behind these themse and issues would have been greater if he didn't just hypnotize himself so he forgot what happened. He's avoiding the consequences of his actions which whilst they weren't exactly his own fault he should still have to deal with them.

Memorable Moment... The Monster, the result of 15 years imprisonment, returns to the place where he was imprisoned to get some answers. After brutally interrogating the gang boss who owns the building where he was kept The Monster goes to leave. The hallway between him and the elevator is filled with gang members armed to the teeth. The camera then goes to like a side scrawling brawler position as The Monster goes toe to toe with the gang. He truly is The Monster in this scene as he wields a hammer and uses his fists in a blind fury and their is a great sense of realism to the fight, the guys get tired as it wears on and each blow sounds sickening and has real power behind it, when they go down they don't get up they just groan. I loved the camera angle and the intensity of the fight, it had a good flow to it and it was just down right brutal.

What it All Means... Oldboy has an amazing story full of twists and turns that is anchored by a great character Dae-su Oh. The violence is brutal and whilst it didn't bother me it certainly isn't everyones cup of tea. I thought the very end was a bit of a cop-out but other than that this is a fantastic film that if you can stomach it you'll love it. Oldboy gets 8 teeth pulled out of 10.



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