Release Date: 2003
Director: Park Chan-wook
Why I picked this: It looks really good
This Korean film had various unexpected elements. What I thought would simply be a revenge tale became much more complex, much more thoughtful, and much more disturbing. It is certainly well made and well acted; there are various images that stick to mind and a few great memorable scenes, a highlight being a hallway fight scene done in one take. But this film took many unexpected paths, which some may find intriguing and some may find too much to handle. Oh Dae-su, played by Choi Min-sik, is a family man who has been living as a degenerate, basically. On her young daughter’s birthday, he is kidnapped and inexplicably imprisoned in what looks to be a hotel room. After fifteen years, he is inexplicably released. Hardened and a different man after his imprisonment, he seeks vengeance. Actor Choi Min-sik is great in this very physical performance. He is great in both action and drama, and can convey so much with just his face, especially in the movie’s closing shot. Oh Dae-su, after gaining his freedom, finds allies in a young woman named Mi-do and his old friend No Joo-hwan, and puts a face on his quest for revenge in Lee Woo-jin, played by Yoo Ji-tae. Woo-jin is by far the most interesting and complex character. He comes across a certain way when he is first introduced, but the audience gradually learns more about his motivation and backstory through flashbacks. It is nearly impossible to further describe his character without revealing any details, but know that Yoo Ji-tae has a great performance as an intriguing villain. The pace of the movie fluctuates, with enthralling action one minute and revealing and slower flashbacks the next. It is tough to sit through, especially due to the sexual and violent content. The movie is smoothly directed; special effects are cleverly used for transitions and for some fantasy sequences, mostly involving ants. The editing was just as good; the use of jump cuts was very fitting to show the passage of time. When you can get over the content, there is a fine-crafted movie to be found here. The soundtrack helped make the tone for the movie. Though there won’t be any themes that stick to your head, the score is very effective during both action and dramatic scenes; some dramatic scenes are much more powerful as a result.
The content may prove to be too much for few, but the movie features a compelling story with a great protagonist and antagonist, along with exciting action and thought-provoking drama.