How far can one go to exact revenge? Critically-acclaimed and Cannes Grand Prix award-winning South Korean cult hit “Oldboy” by director Park Chan-wook depicts a rather extreme scenario, a story that would make you uncomfortable yet leave you at awe at its brilliance.
“Oldboy” (2003) follows the story of a salary man named Oh Dae-su. From the get go it’s evident that he’s the sort of protagonist that you might not be able to completely sympathize with – yes, even though he gets kidnapped and subjected to solitary confinement inside a room for the next 15 years for reasons unknown to him and the viewers. His days were spent watching television (where he learns the news about his wife’s murder and that he’s the prime suspect), shadowboxing, and having meals of the same store-bought dumplings. But one day, just as sudden as his abduction, he finds himself on a rooftop, finally freed from his prison and burdened with the task of finding out who kidnapped him and why. As you go deeper into the film things progressively get just a little bit darker, possibly even disturbing for some. It ends on an ambiguous note, but before that, a major twist gets revealed. By the time the credits roll, you might find yourself reconsidering your views on Oh Dae-su just a little bit. And admiring the movie and everyone behind it for how they gambled and really pushed their story as far as they could and not fail at it.
“Oldboy,” in a word, is mind-bending. It shows humans at one of their worst moments. It’s messed up, depicts revenge to the extreme, has quite a number of scenes that are rather uncomfortable and even painful to watch, and is generally violent with all its fight scenes– definitely not for the squeamish, in short. Still, it’s the kind of film that one needs to watch at least once. The minds behind it have spun a tale so unique that no one else could possibly be able to pull it off just as well as they did.
“Oldboy” stars Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su; Kang Hye-jung as Oh’s younger love interest Mi-do; and Yoo Ji-tae as Lee Woo-jin, a man who plays an integral part in the film. “Oldboy” is the second part to Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy,” although you don’t necessarily have to watch “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” to understand its story.
You can view the trailer for “Oldboy” below:
All stills in this article were sourced from Beautiful Stills from Beautiful Films.
Like this article? Check out our articles from the Friday Movie Flashback series in the Lomography magazine!
Related articles: The Director’s Chair: Park Chan-wook and Four Impressive Minimalist Posters of Films Released in 2013.