Sunday, November 2, 2008


Oldboy is one of the most disturbing films I've seen, but what's impressive is not the depth of its violence or perversions, but how they effectively convey the tone of the story. The tale begins with a man being imprisoned in a room for fifteen years for reasons unknown, and upon release he sets out to discover why. It's a story of revenge, and the impact of the truth just wouldn't be the same if the specifics of the reasoning and methods of retribution weren't as shocking as they are. Another fairly recent movie that affected me with similar high quality of storytelling and force of violence was Pan's Labyrinth, which also happened to be made outside of the United States, in this case by Mexicans instead of Koreans (based on a Japanese comic). I'm not saying Americans can't make movies like this, I just haven't seen it in a while.

The movie is overall just put together very impressively. There are so many moments that stand out as something you wouldn't see elsewhere. There's a pretty significant fight scene partway through that's pretty astounding, from many perspectives. It's entertaining to watch, incredibly complex technically, and enhances the plot in a number of ways. Some of the harsher segments are a bit difficult to watch, although it never becomes explicit for the sake of it like some of the more irritating entries in the horror genre. Every moment has a purpose, and nothing is there just because it's gross. Oh Dae-su is a pretty great main character, a drunk nobody in the beginning, transformed into a badass by his imprisonment, but still prone to breaking down into an emotional mess. It's a really good performance to hang a whole movie on. It wasn't necessary though, with Park's direction sculpting it into a perfect realization of the story's potential. The ending is ambiguous, which seems common in Asian cinema, but not in a way that damages what came before. Really worth checking out.

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