Go, Korea! Imagine Quentin Tarantino if he happened to be from Seoul, and you’d get pretty close to this film. A revenge thriller with a delicious twist of black comedy, Oldboy has just about everything I enjoy in a movie: visceral action, scandal, interesting characters, great dialogue and a gripping narrative.
The story begins when our hero Oh Dae-su is inexplicably captured and held prisoner in a cell that resembles a dystopian hotel room for 15 years. Just as he’s about to perform a Shawshank-style getaway, he is released, once again with no explanation as to why. Rather than try to piece his life back together, Dae-su instead seeks revenge, as well as the truth. On his way, he meets a younger girl, Mi-do, who reads his diary and believes him. Together, they embark on a twisted and delightfully dark journey that the audience will not forget.
The great plot and fantastic acting aside, this film is beautifully shot, with many vibrant colours and bold sets to almost resemble a comic book. In fact, the story is based on a Japanese manga comic, but I doubt the transition to Korea was too difficult. While sometimes I feel that the dialogue can be lost in translation, the subtitles for this film were absolutely superb, and occasionally I forgot they were speaking Korean altogether.
I really don’t want to say too much about it as I feel I may spoil it for you. Suffice to say that anybody out there who loves dark yet well-made cinema will absolutely wolf this one down. It’s certainly worth viewing now, so that you can get hipster about it before the U.S. remake to come later this year, directed by Spike Lee and casting Samuel L. Jackson. If it’s anywhere near as good as this version, I’ll be impressed!