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Director: Chan-wook Park

Oldboy at its most basic is a revenge story, this film is however much more complex than that. It is a barrage on the viewers senses. Visually stunning as well as emotionally visceral. On the surface the narrative is very straightforward, but little is as it seems throughout the entire film up till the last few minutes. Not for the weak of heart Oldboy has some of the most violent sequences that I have witnessed.

Oldboy does many things extremely well. From the opening sequence we are treated to a score that adds much to the film. Having a great score but knowing how to properly use it so as to not allow it to overwhelm the film is not an easy task. Park does it perfectly in Oldboy. Park also uses the split screen masterfully in this movie. This is another device that I have seen used to the detriment of a movie, not so here. Park is an artist with the camera. One sequence in particular stands out for me. The main character comes to a location that is familiar to him and important to a memory that he is trying to recall. As he recalls this memory he chases the memory of his younger self through the sequence. It is beautifully shot, we never lose our sense of time or place as can easily happen in such a scene.

The visuals and score are not the only positives in Oldboy. The narrative is gripping and tense. Our protagonist is on a mission of revenge for what has been done to him. We are along for the journey every step of the way. We feel every emotion that he is feeling as his story progresses. We feel his fear, torment, and hatred. Like all good revenge stories as he begins to reek his havoc we wonder at what cost it is coming. Are his motives pure, and even of they are is it worth the price it is costing his soul. Oldboy handles these themes masterfully.

I have two issues with this film. The first is I was never completely on board with the character of Mi-do. It is not a spoiler to say that we learn very early on that she has had a very similar experience to the protagonist. Despite this fact we are given she always seems to be much more aware than he is. He spends the film unraveling a mystery, she appears to understand most of what is happening but is just relying on him for protection from it. My second issue is the ending. While much is revealed in the last third and there are some very well done intense scenes, the last five minutes lacks the punch that a film like this needs.

Oldboy is an amazingly directed film that is well worth your time. While you may not wish to revisit this world, you will be happy that you took the journey.