Oldboy (2003)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Paranoid Thriller, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 25, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - Korea, South  |   MPAA Rating - NR
  • AllMovie Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Share on

Review by Jason Buchanan

A harrowing, labyrinthine revenge epic that will keep viewers guessing right up to its shocking denouement, director Park Chan-wook's masterful tale of lost time and dark secrets achieves the rare feat of eliciting sympathy from the viewer before dropping in a devastating twist that is as plausible as it is affecting. As we first meet the character of Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), the drunken husband and father is sitting in a police station awaiting the arrival of his best friend to bail him out. Despite Oh Dae-su's unruly behavior in the scene, the viewer senses an inherently flawed, but ultimately good-natured character, which makes his mysterious disappearance and subsequent imprisonment in the opening moments of the film so effectively disconcerting. It is key to the film's success that the viewer identify with him, and Choi -- appearing as something of a cross between Johnny Depp in Secret Window and a blank faced Takeshi Kitano -- is able to make both his character's mental deterioration and physical transformation compellingly watchable. Though Oh Dae-su does eventually make it back into the outside world, his increasing paranoia and unquenchable thirst for answers and revenge offer a frightening look at the depths to which the human soul can sink given the right (or wrong, as it may be) conditions. His transformation is made especially convincing thanks to the inclusion of several moments of well-placed humor that is as quirky as it is low-key, providing a fleeting glimpse of the formerly carefree family man. Aesthetically, comparisons to the works of such filmmakers as David Fincher and Christopher Nolan are inevitable; though Park and cinematographer Jeong Jeong-hun 's stylish lensing was no doubt influenced by the aforementioned filmmakers, the inventive South Korean duo (with a little help from co-screenwriters Lim Jun-hyeong and Hwang Jo-yun) eventually succeed in distinguishing themselves from their Western counterparts by constantly surprising the viewer with sharp storytelling skills and fresh visuals.