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Oldboy: The best Korean movie of all time.

 This is the one and only film that kept me quiet for a whole 5 mins after seeing it. I literally couldn't close my mouth, and yet there wasn't any sound coming out of it. Oldboy had such an impact on me that words are too little to describe that impact. It has a massive ingredient that a lot of films seem to miss out on; a divine plot. Even though the acting and screenplay are world-class, the plot is really the cherry on the cake.

CAUTION: This might be the darkest film you could have ever seen.

OLDBOY (2003)

Directed by Park Chan-wook; screenplay by Hwang Jo-yun, Lim Chun-hyeong, Lim Joon-hyung, and Park Chan-wook; starring Choi Min-sik, Yu Ji-tae, and Kang Hye-jeong.

Oldboy is one hell of a Korean movie. It is a film that is characterized by surrealism, gritty violence and raw emotion. The theme is about revenge and how it destroys one person. After viewing it, it left me silent for more than five minutes to contemplate on what I have seen. It was simply a masterpiece.

It has proved that Koreans are one of the most creative when it comes to cinema. But mind you, this film is not for everyone. Especially for the weak at heart. Aside from revenge, it touches subject on incest as well. Nevertheless, it is a MASTERPIECE.

The acting is world-class in this film. Choi Min-sik and Yu Ji-tae were simply amazing as Oh Daesu and Lee Woo-jin respectively. Credit should also be given to Gang Hye-jung as Mido. The characters are given the emotional depth that one could sympathize for. They were not simply categorized as either good or evil but they were allowed to feel raw emotion. The direction was also spectacular from Park Chan-wook. And the soundtrack was mesmerizing.

Spoiler warning! This review discusses revealing themes and elements of the movie’s plot.

His story begins when drunken windbag Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped and confined to a pseudo-prison for 15-years. He escapes and proceeds to hunt down and exact revenge upon his captors for taking so much away from him. And however rewarding his initial reprisals maybe, he was released for a reason; someone watches his every move and indeed pushes his progress to a deliberate climax. What may seem like grotesqueries in the first half of the film are later justified as dramatic irony, making additional viewings crucial to grasp the remarkable intensity of the narrative beyond its initial shock. Beginning with an unsympathetic inebriate howling in a police station, the film launches when Oh Dae-su disappears after making bail. He wakes up in a hotel room complete with shower, bed, and television, the space fortified with a metal door and brick walls. He cannot leave. Daily meals of fried dumplings are given through a passage in the door. Periodically an electronic jingle announces the release of sleeping gas, and when Oh regains consciousness, his room has been cleaned and his hair groomed.

This routine continues for 15 years. He is never told who has imprisoned him, or why. He watches TV until it becomes his world. He fills one journal after another with his writings. He pounds the wall until his fists grow bloody, and then hardened. He screams. He learns from TV that his blood and fingerprints were found at the scene of his wife's murder. That their daughter has been adopted in Sweden. That if he were to escape, he would be a wanted man.

At the heart of the film lies a classical tragedy. The gore, the incest, and the devastating emotions are all parts of the genre. (If you don’t believe me, remember that Oedipus stabs his own eyes when he discovers he has married his mother.) The climax of Oldboy—which boasts one of the most astonishing and effective twists of the past decade—is both surprising and sickening, but the visceral shock we feel at the extreme violence and revelation of taboo-breaking is not what affects us most. The greatest effect of the film is how strongly the story pulls our emotions—almost to breaking point. Oldboy achieves a catharsis worthy of Sophocles or Shakespeare. Park’s superb technique (famously exemplified in the side-scrolling hallway fight scene, accomplished in a single long shot) and the clever screenplay are certainly impressive, but the emotional depth is what makes Oldboy a great film.

The man, named Oh Dae-su, is a wretch when we first meet him, a drunk who has missed his little daughter's birthday and now sits forlornly in the police station, ridiculously wearing the angel's wings he bought her as a present. He is not a bad man, but alcohol has rendered him useless.
When he suddenly finds himself freed from his bizarre captivity 15 years later, he is a different person, focused on revenge, ridiculously responsive to kindness. Wandering into a restaurant, he meets a young woman who, he knows from the TV, is Korea's "Chef of the Year." This is Mido. Sensing that he has suffered, feeling an instinctive sympathy, she takes him home with her, hears his story, cares for him, comes to love him. Meanwhile, he sets out on a methodical search to find the secret of his captivity. He was fed pot stickers, day after day, until their taste is burned into his memory, and he travels the city's restaurants until he finds the one that supplied his meals. That is the key to tracking down his captors.

When I watched it for the second time, however, I really started to notice how well it's made, in addition to liking it more. Every shot is bursting with background detail, a great amount of attention on the production design (the theme of a certain colour in a scene was restrained, yet perfectly balanced). The actors really gave it all, especially the 2 male leads who really blew me away. The music is a varied mix of beautiful classical music and some pretty cool techno. The screenplay is unique & brilliant; the characters are developed very well, extremely complex, and the plot is not only ingenious, but the payoff and twists are 1000x better.

The storyline seems simple enough, but the movie blows up in the faces of the audience with all kinds of unexpected plot twists. Not only that, but the story involves the audience with the characters in the movie by including very good character development and acting.

This film is most definitely not for everyone. Make no mistake: this is a very heavy, very dark movie, so go into it aware of that. Admirably, though, Oldboy is never gratuitously disturbing. The dark subject matter has a purpose.


Oh Dae-Su: Be it a stone or a grain of sand, in water they both sink

  • Well if you are on Netflix then make sure you don't miss this film. Link below

Post a Comment


  1. Are you sure this movie is in Amazon Prime ?... I don't find it there...
    Your reviews are good 👍.

    1. This movie is currently not available in Indian Prime, and thanks for the compliment. Make sure watch this film if you haven't watched yet.

    2. Yeah can't wait to watch it. Just now downloaded it.

    3. Watched the movie and one of the best movies I saw.

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