Saturday, October 26, 2013

Oldboy done good

Movie Review: Oldboy

Director: Chan-wook Park

Reviewed: 23 October 2013

jamesintexas rating--****

Oldboy is a revenge film with endless surprises and inventiveness. A smashing together of Kafka and Tarantino, Park dazzles with an unforgettable story of a man imprisoned for fifteen years who escapes and searches for the reason why. Its precision is haunting, and I think that Oldboy offers a unique tale with a towering lead performance.

Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi) finds himself transported from his everyday life with his wife and child to a hotel room of a cell where his food is delivered through a tray in the door, a television keeps him occupied, and his captors refuse to identify themselves. He wracks his mind, wondering what choice did he make that led him to this? On that basis, Oldboy resembles a horror film, more like an American torture film like the Saw series with an impossible intelligent villain and over-the-top outlandish scenarios. But unlike those films, Oldboy veers off into becoming a psychological thriller, a mystery with a true surprise that occurs midway in the film, not in the final minute. The unraveling of who would do this to him and why is endlessly fascinating. Scene after scene dazzles, and there are multiple scenes where the challenge is to keep staring at the horror on the screen.

Min-sik Choi with a lion's mane of hair, expressive face, and impressive body control dominates the film as he occupies nearly every frame. He endures much physical abuse in this film, and his face captures that pain and weariness. One fight scene is impressively done, a ballet of over fifteen adversaries all attacking Dae-su in one long shot which glides forwards and backwards, never breaking in its intensity. Actions and images are repeated in the film, and the denouement is nearly as devastating as those of grand classics like Chinatown and Vertigo. I have never seen a film quite like this one, and with Oldboy as an entry point, I cannot wait to see more stories from this confident, skilled director.

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