Oldboy

by Tim Dodd on July 8, 2005

in Uncategorized

Feeling dirty never felt so creepy!

There comes a time in all of our lives that we have to face the fact that life can be unbelievably cruel. Since good art should express the wide range of human experience, it is necessary for artists to sometimes explore the darker side of life, including the unbearably cruel events that people put each other through on a daily basis. However, there must be a purpose in explicitly showing this cruelty and that is where viewing disturbing art can become difficult. Does watching horrible events unfolding on a movie screen make us think about our own lives and how we treat the people that we come into contact with? I believe that in addition to exploring the darker side of human nature in his film Oldboy, director Chan-wook Park wants us all to think about our everyday actions and how they may affect those around us.
In Oldboy, seemingly regular guy Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped and held captive in an apartment for fifteen years. He never sees his captors and has no idea why he has been imprisoned. While in his unusual cell he watches TV, racks his brain about who he could have pissed off to get him in this situation, and eventually trains himself for revenge if he is ever to be released. Without warning he is released and then given five days to find out who his captor is and why he was imprisoned. Oh Dae-su meets up with sushi chef Lee Woo-jin (Yu Ji-tae), who takes him in and helps him with his quest. Oh Dae-su leaves a trail of blood in his wake as he scours the city for clues and sweet vengeance.
Let me just start out by saying that this is a very beautiful film as well as one of the most truly disturbing movies I’ve ever seen. Bad things happen to the main character from the beginning and continue throughout the movie’s 120 minute running time. Any bit of happiness that any of the characters seem to feel is immediately immolated and castrated on the spot. Hatred, spite, depravity, and rage are the order of the day and most events are played out with extreme violence and anger. Yet, Chan-wook Park has managed to present this in a very eye-pleasing and well-constructed thrill ride of a movie, and for that he should be congratulated.

From the outset you will realize that this film is masterfully made and inventively put together. The whole first portion of the movie documenting his fifteen years of captivity is very schizophrenic, reflecting the fragmented state of the character’s mind as he deals with the madness of not knowing why he is suffering in this way. The rest of the movie features some great action scenes including one where Oh Dae-su fights off what must be a hundred guys armed only with a hammer! The film looks great and was made by a director who truly knows his craft.
I just want to warn you, by the end of this movie I felt like my soul had been raped by a jackhammer. Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but still, it left me feeling deeply disturbed and exhilarated. However, there’s a real beauty to be found in all of this tragedy; a beauty made all the more poignant in the film’s finale where Oh Dae-su has to make an impossible moral choice just to be able to live what he’s discovered about himself. It is one of the biggest and most powerful emotional payoffs you’ll ever see in a movie, and one you’ll not soon forget. Oldboy is definitely not for the faint of heart, but those who enjoy involved storylines, gritty fight scenes, and explorations of the seedier side of things will find much to appreciate here.

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