Rated R for strong violence including scenes of torture, sexuality and pervasive language.
Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone. -Dae-su Oh
This film was not at all what I expected. There is a dark style and even a dark comedy to Oldboy hidden inside a torturous story riddled with violence and mayhem. It’s a film with a plot that is overflowing with ingenuity and a character that is both unpredictable and though slightly insane, sympathetic. There are so many layers to this disturbing tale, it’s a film that needs numerous viewings to really appreciate the full spectrum of what it has to offer. One thing is clear, you’ll know if you’re going to love it or hate it in the first ten minutes.
Oh Dae-Su is kidnapped for reasons unknown and imprisoned for fifteen years in an apartment sized room. After dealing with mental anxiety, hallucinations, to his own suicidal behavior, he becomes released into the world only to learn he has been blamed for the murder of his wife. He has five days to find his captor and seek his revenge. After suffering the torment and unimaginable loss he has, he will stop at nothing to reach his goal.
This film is haunting and perverse, and has direct appeal to those that have the stomach to sit through it. Though it’s almost torture at times to watch, it’s worth every second of confusion and discomfort because it’s simply that good. The highly stylized way Park shoots it alone is captivating. If you can take the brutality of it this film simply succeeds in every aspect of good film making. It constantly entertains, the dialogue is titillating , the mystery only intrigues more as the film carries on, and there is even fight scenes to keep you on yours toes The tragedy of it all lingers with you for days. It’s climax and resolve is unforgettable and that resounding. The revelations of the character and his imprisonment is an operatic tour of disturbia . The diabolical revenge of the situation is shocking, but somehow the twist seemed almost inevitable, even though it wasn’t something a human of sound thinking could have predicted.
There is a fight scene in this movie that will blow your mind. Just like the subject manner and the obstacles Dae-Su is forced to face, this battle does not shy from the violence or raw evaluation of the brutality people will face when forced to. The physical and psychological hurdles Dae-Su overcomes is surmountable. A dark tragedy rang throughout his life and all is the meaningless result of an insane persons brutal calculations. The way the film actually closes will have you shaking our head and wondering if he ever was more than a beast, and if he made the choice solely for himself. Again, this is not a movie you can grasp in one viewing. Many repeats will be necessary to really appreciate what happened.
Oldboy is one of the best movies of the decade and absolutely one of my favorite foreign films of all time. It is ground breaking, mind shattering, and consistently shocking to the heart and soul. We care about our characters even though they aren’t always the most moral of people, it’s pretty much what makes them human. The choices they take, and what leads them to their inevitable ending is a journey that is astounding. As difficult as it might be, I recommend anyone who is a true fan of cinema see this movie. You will be better for it, even if your brain won’t be able to comprehend the insane ride it’s taken. Oldboy was insane and genius.