I'd heard this was a highly acclaimed film, and, thankfully, aside from the "corridor fight" I really knew basically nothing about this, and that's a good thing. The less you know, the better, as part of why this is great is the experience of seeing the story unfold.
It's dark, twisted, and really unsettling, but it has a point, and the moments of strong violence are justified. Plus, there's some well placed moments of quirky humor which are good since a story like this could do with some occasional levity.
Despite the bleak and lurid subject matter, this film is actually quite gorgeous, and very well shot, It's slick, stylish, and very artful. The aforementioned "corridor fight" is amazing, especially since it's done in a single take. It's not the only sequence that sings though, but it is a clear highlight.
The music is quite good, the writing and direction strong, and the performances, especially Min-sik Choi in the lead, are all pretty solid. The dubbing kinda stuck out, and not in a good way, but that's really my only complaint here.
This is compelling stuff, and a great thriller. Definitely check it out.
"15 years of imprisonment, 5 days of vengeance."
Oldboy is the second film in Chan-Wook Park's revenge trilogy and it is widely regarded as the best in the trilogy. Even if you don't like violent movie, which I do, there is no denying just how well made Oldboy is. The film is put together magnificently well on every level. It looks great, it's well acted, the score is tremendous. There's nothing about it that isn't top notch. I really enjoyed the movie, but I don't feel like it is one of the best movies ever like many.
Dae-su Oh is taken prisoner for 15 years. While locked up, he eats only one thing for 15 years and his only entertainment is a television. One day he wakes up freed and begins to seek revenge on the people responsible for his being prisoner for 15 years and also for the death of his wife, which everyone believes he did. The movie isn't your standard revenge film where something is done to a guy, so he seeks revenge and that's all there really is. This has much more depth than the standard revenge film has.
The movie is violent and bloody, but not nearly as disgusting as I was led to believe. The violence isn't overdone, in my opinion. In fact, I kind of expected more. It's also not only done for pure shock value or to just gross out the audience. Everything works together to get the movie where Park wants to take it and maybe everyone doesn't enjoy watching what he's showing, but he's going to show it nonetheless.
The plot itself is as follows. The protagonist Oh Dae-Su is one day captured and finds himself locked up in a makeshift prison. After a brief spell of anger and spewing hatred for his captors, he resigns himself to his fate, and after 15 years of shadow boxing and suicide attempts he wakes up from a gas induced coma on top of a tower block where he was initially seized. He then proceeds to try and find out who did this and why, and the film basically charts this quest.
The first word that springs to mind when thinking about this film has to be graphic. There are certain scenes which will make those of nervous disposition recoil until they are firmly wedged between the back and seat of their sofa, and they are likely to spend much of the film there as violence is frequent. In most of the extreme cases it is simply the implication of violence and the viewer's imagination when left to its own devices like this will cause its own disgust. This hurdle was a huge thing problem for my dad, who considered some of the violence to be gratuitous, which I can somewhat agree with, although certain scenes are completely integral to the plot. The best way I can justify these scenes is simple. It is all about sending a message, and these do just that. If you can cope with this then you will break down the initial barrier the film leaves lying in the way of your enjoyment.
Many of the themes you will pick up on and the method of direction is very synonymous with Quentin Tarantino. There are devices used in this film which have obviously taken inspiration from Tarantino's works, in particular the Pulp Fiction- esquire use of camera angles, and the famous dotted line sequence. However, Tarantino is himself a huge fan of Old Boy, being its main advocate to win the 2003 Palme d'Or (where it eventually lost out to Fahrenheit 9/11) and has stated Park Chan-Wook as an influence for his directing style on the Kill Bill series, as well as on his later grindhouse works Death Proof and Planet Terror. Chan-Wook takes on a policy of "trust the director", and leaves many questions throughout the film which gives it a somewhat disorientating feel at times. This method of directing can seem quite inaccessible, however all loose ends are tied up very satisfactorily in the enthralling and shocking climax. This is an ending to rival the classic Kaiser Sozé twist in the tail of The Usual Suspects.
What really separated and elevates Chan-Wook's work above and beyond Tarantino's however is very simple. Much of Tarantino's work is undertaken as an exercise in direction and film making, and therefore his work can therefore feel shallow. Old Boy however is a film which assesses the deepest corners of the human heart. The middle of three films which make up Chan-Wook's Vengeance Trilogy it is undoubtedly the masterpiece, with a more powerful message than Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This film has power because of the depths to which it explores the flaws and forces the human heart possesses, stronger and more destructive than any wisdom can overcome. The performances of the main cast and most importantly the director to send this message to the viewer leave this film as about as close to perfection as I can see any film getting.
I guess flixster messed up and erased everyone's Oldboy reviews, so here it is again...
Dae-su Oh: If they had told me it was going to be fifteen years, would it have been easier to endure?
The second part of Chan-Wook Park's vengeance trilogy, this film centers on Oh Dae-su, played by Min-sik Choi. We are first introduced to him as a man in a police station, drunk, and babbling. Probably not a bad guy, but in some trouble. After being bailed out by his friend, Oh Dae-su is suddenly kidnapped and put in a prison designed to look like a cheap motel room.
Od Dae-su is forced to stay in this room for 15 years. During that time he learns that his wife has been murdered, and his daughter has been given to a family in Europe. Oh Dae-su goes understandably a little crazy during his time spent in this room, learning how to fight through shadow boxing, dying to get revenge if he is ever released.
Woo-jin Lee: Remember this: "Be it a rock or a grain of sand, in water they sink as the same."
Once Oh Dae-su is released, he has plans for revenge, but the games is not over for him, as his capture soon meets up with him, and gives him 5 days to find out the real reason why he was imprisoned. This leads to the reveal of questionable pasts and the truth of certain matters.
Dae-su Oh: Even though I'm no more than a monster - don't I, too, have the right to live?
This film is impeccably made. Skillfully crafted. Wonderfully acted. Beautifully scored. And has an awesome story.
Park's direction is wonderful. The film is not paced slow per se, but the plot is revealed over time. The visual style is completely fitting and works well with set ups for each character. And the score is wonderfully appropriate and classy.
Dae-su Oh: Revenge is good for your health, but pain will find you again.
Min-sik Choi as Oh Dae-su is amazing. He completely embodies this character, giving it his all to create a tour de force performance.
Then you have some of the stunning and memorable scenes. One involving a live octopus and the other involving a single take of an excellently executed fight scene.
The story is also very layered, making it perfect for repeated viewings, and giving the viewer multiple ways to interpret things.
Dae-su Oh: Can the imaginary training of fifteen years be put to use?
Dae-su Oh: [Dae-su beats up his assailants] Yes. It can.
It also helps that there is a sweet cool vibe running throughout this wonderful story that combines a Hitchcock setup, sweet visuals, and some unruly violence to make an awesome film overall.
Dae-su Oh: [after a very messy beating] Anyone here with an AB blood type, raise your hand.
After being kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in 5 days.
I thought this was one of the best films I have ever seen, a remarkably imagined and executed tour de force where every scene is a masterpiece. Acting from all three leads was not just good, but tremendous and the direction is unbelievable - visceral, imaginative, original, energetic, and yet sensitive and touching. Special mention has to go to the score - which is one of the best I have ever heard.
This was a movie that was very, very exciting, but even more so, very, very moving. I have yet to see a movie that explores the pointlessness of revenge and the burden of memories and the past so thoughtfully. Personally I enjoyed Kill Bill but whereas that was great, if shallow, fun, this is something else entirely. It is a stunning movie that succeeds both as an action thriller and as a powerful, affecting tragedy.
It is not an easy film to watch besides the frequently brutal violence, it reaches climaxes of extreme emotional intensity. However it established Chanwook Park as a major talent in world cinema.
I loved the way the movie was put together. Editing and cinematography worked well.
I can see why this movie gets such high praise but I don't think it lived up to the hype. The main character was great through most of the movie but dropped badly at the end. The breakdown was mostly silly and didn't have an emotional effect on me.
Other than that the mystery surrounding his imprisonment was well drawn out but the conclusion was lacking.