Oldboy (2003, Chan-wook Park) tells the story of Dae-Su, who after being kidnapped and held prisoner for 15 years, finds himself freed and given the task of discovering who had him imprisoned and why. By far one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in a long time. I enjoyed it nonetheless. First, watch the trailer here.
There are few things as satisfying as a good old revenge movie – and at first sight, this film had all the makings of my kind of movie: a mysterious premise, dark shots, and a little bit of action. Once deep into the film, it began to take a turn I wasn’t even expecting. Not going to ruin it for you here – because I insist you watch it – but let’s chat a bit about why I loved it.
Something I don’t like about certain mysteries or thrillers is when the mystery unfolds mechanically. You see this in crime shows all the time: OK, now’s when they find the first subject that’s a red herring, now they’re stumped, now one of the characters has an unrelated revelation that somehow leads to them solving the crime, and so on and so forth.
This film didn’t do that. Despite the mystery appearing controlled and manipulated by the perpetrator of Dae-Su’s imprisonment, the characters are not exempt from the sways of their own emotion. Discovery, action, and reaction butts heads with the carefully constructed mystery that mounts in a gripping thriller and devastating tale that pits all characters on a path they cannot escape. All of this leads to the question I continued to ask myself long after the end credits scrolled: did these characters ever have a chance to escape their fate?