Chan-wook Park, South Korea, 2003, 120 min.
Oldboy‘s opening grabs you immediately. A shot of a hand holding something. It’s unclear what, but the pounding music and way the shot is framed create immediate tension. And then you find out that the hand belongs to a man on a rooftop who is holding onto another man’s tie, which is the only thing keeping him and his dog from falling to their death.
The film immediately jumps back to the start of this story and shows the events that led up to this moment. A man is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years for unknown reasons. Now free, he attempts to find his tormentor. But that’s just the beginning.
What unfolds is a perfect tale of tragedy. Revenge will be had, lives will be lost. There will be brutal twists of fate and even more brutal intentions. There may be redemption, there may not. It’s a film filled with the gravity of an opera or a Shakespeare play, but with a fresh modern style.
Chan-wook Park knows how to move a camera, stage a shot, and put music to images. He can create tension and energy like the best of them. And this story that he chose to tell is perfect for his talents and the talents of Min-sik Choi, who turns in a fearless lead performance.
Oldboy is a perfect synthesis of form and function. It’s an intense and draining film. It asks alot from the viewer, but it rewards them with an experience not soon forgotten.