Oldboy

25 Apr

“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OLDBOY!!!”

That was me for months before seeing this movie. I had heard so much about it. “One of the best films of the decade!” they said. “Such brilliant twists!” they said. “Asian cinema!” they said. “HAMMER FIGHT!!!” they said.

HAMMER FIGHT!!!

Fun fact: This was the image chosen to be featured in the main menu of the DVD, and the selector icon for each menu within is in the shape of a hammer. I found this to be highly amusing.

Indeed, there are many reasons to geek out about this film.

BUT IS IT WORTH THE HYPE?

In a word: yes.

In several:

Oldboy, a film by Korean director Chan-wook Park, is the second in a series of films unofficially titled the “Vengeance Trilogy.” It tells the story of Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-sik), who is abducted one rainy night and imprisoned with no explanation. After fifteen years of hallucinations and suicide attempts, he is released, framed for his wife’s murder and far from his only child, and still with no explanation as to why. Seeking brutal vengeance (oh, hey!), he soon finds his captor, who gives him the choice of taking his revenge and killing him right then and there or first finding the reason for his imprisonment. He chooses the latter, and…

No spoilers.

Especially not for this movie. It’s true, the twist and turns this movie takes are quite fantastic, and to spoil a single one would feel as if I were ruining the whole thing. I will say this, though: this movie is insane. This is not a hyperbole of any sort. It’s not insane in any way you’d expect from Asian cinema, though. No, Chan Wook-park possesses his very own special brand of senseless depravity. It’s restrained through most of the film, but he uses it liberally at its climax, with hardly a regard to your sensitivities. That, along with the unique, unraveling narrative, is a large part of what makes this movie spectacular. Another part worth noting is Choi Min-sik’s incredible performance, “incredible” probably being the best word to describe the ability to ravenously consume a live cephalopod on screen.

You know, you don't HAVE to see this...

I was wrong. The word I was looking for is "yikes."

In spite (well, probably because) of all of this madness, Oldboy is a deeply provocative film. It raises the question: is the truth really worth knowing? Most people’s immediate response would be “yes,” but this film is the first I’ve seen that makes its viewer question such a notion. Oh Dae-su chooses to seek the truth over revenge, but, in doing so, he reveals a mortifying secret that he (as well as the audience) desperately wishes was never uncovered, leaving the viewer to wonder if he should have just killed the man after all. But where would he be then? And wouldn’t the appalling truth still be there, even unbeknownst to him? This is one of the rare films that make you think for days afterward.

“Ok, so you like it pretty much,” I can hear nobody saying. “Would you recommend it to anyone?” Well… No. I can’t, really. It certainly isn’t for everyone. Where other films demand you to watch them again, this is one that dares you. This is mostly because of its final twist, one that changes the perspective of the movie almost completely. As I attempted to say before: the twist is REALLY messed up. No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase it from your mind. Now that I’ve warned you, it’s your choice to watch it or not. However, even those who choose not to cannot miss the legendary Hammer Fight.

Are you sold? I was.

———————————————————————————————-

Next, the academic year draws to a close, freeing up lots of blog time. I will kick off (or anticipate, depending) the summer by listening to and reviewing Marry Me by the ever wonderful St. Vincent.

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