Monday, September 8, 2008


In 2004, Oldboy won numerous awards. Most notably, at Cannes, Oldboy finished second to Fahrenheit 9/11 (an obvious mistake in my humble opinion). My opinion is seconded by Quentin Tarentino who lobbied for Oldboy, but failed to convince the other Judge’s at Cannes to elevate the movie to first place. Oldboy is an exceptional film that is visually stunning, morbidly entertaining and graphically violent. The story flirts with societal taboos and contains strong subject matter that might be offensive or difficult for many viewers. Oldboy tells the story of a Korean man, Oh Dae Su, who lives life on the edge. He cusses a lot and likes his Soju. We get to watch an interesting scene showing various stages of his police custody, where his drunken stupor exhibits itself in a variety of ways...many of them a bit humorous. Dae Su disappears from a phone booth awakening in what appears to be a hotel room, with a steel door locked from outside. His meals are delivered prison-style through a metal trap door in the bottom portion of the door to the room. After fifteen years of incarceration in this private prison, Dae Su is released on a grassy rooftop. Bent on vengeance, Dae Su embarks on a journey to discover why fifteen years of his life were taken from him. During the course of his journey, twists and turns abound. Dae Su is unsure of who he can trust, relying on his instincts and brute force to survive. The answers that Dae Su is looking for lead to answers to questions he never asked, and didn’t want the answers to. The journey to vengeance leads us on an interesting adventure that keeps one guessing...even after the credits roll. What appealed to me most about Oldboy was the stylistic use of visual images to deliver a movie that has the feel of a graphic novel. The movie is taken out of order...starting in the middle of the story, backtracking to pick up some history and then moving forward from the point where the movie began. The imagery is often deliberate, framing scenes in a series of close ups, wide angles and pauses that have the feel of a comic book. The sub-titling further added to that effect for me. If one were to watch this movie without the sound or sub-titles, the basic premise would not be lost. The expressiveness and exaggerated emotion, the visual cues and excellent use of imagery combine to tell the story without a need for auditory input. Oldboy succeeds because it starts with an excellent plot. The writing is phenomenal for a number of reasons. The plot develops slowly, creating a plethora of questions for the viewer. The dialogue is interesting...and not much seems to be lost in the translation. There may be some minor nuance that does not translate, such as words indicating respect...but overall, the sub-titles indicated dialogue that was unique yet believable. The complexity of the plot as it unravels leaves you guessing for a good deal of the movie...I figured out where the plot was going, but it was very near the end of the movie. The writing also connected the audience to the characters who were well developed. The entire concept of this movie was as fresh as it was disturbing. Even the ending does not tie everything up in a neat package. It leaves you with many questions, but not an empty cheated feeling.


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