Film Review: Vengeance Trilogy (Part One: Oldboy)
Few recent films have had such an impact on me as the amazing vengeance trilogy from Chan-wook Park. The three films are Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (in order of creation). Why start with the second installment in my three part review? Well, it was the first film I was introduced to by Chan-wook Park as well as my personal favorite of the three (very close call though).
The story follows a irresponsible drunk named Oh Dae-Su who is abducted at the start of the movie with seemingly no reason and locked in a hotel prison for 15 years. When I first watched this film I could not believe how strong of an opening this was. 15 years locked up for no apparent reason is an incredibly hard thing to wrap your head around. Despite not knowing much about Oh Dae-Su's past, we grow to sympathize with him as we witness his decline into madness and blind rage.
So after the 15 years he is unceremoniously set free and begins his path towards vengeance. That is about all you should be told about this film, if you are interested in watching. Suffice to say, it is intense.
So what makes this film stand out of the sea of vengeance themed films?
1. The cinematography is stunning. Every single shot in the film could stand as a work of its own in an exhibit. Inventive camera angles, spot on choreography, and a great use of minimal special effects blend together to craft a seamless and flowing film. One scene that immediately comes to mind is an extended, one take fight scene down a long corridor. It's impressive.
2. The acting. Hands down, Choi Min-sik's portrayal of Oh Dae-Su is one of the most mind blowing performances I have ever witnessed. You WILL believe him. All the other characters do their part extremely well too, but in my opinion he takes the cake. This is the film that has placed him on the map on an international level. I can't wait to see what he does next.
3. The music. I absolutely love the score to this film. The main theme is so fantastic, it ranks up in my top 10 best film themes (up there with Ravenous!).
My list can go on and on, since there is a lot to like about the film. Chan-wook Park quickly became one of my favorite directors after seeing this film. It's smart, sophisticated, and stands up to multiple viewings. I have NO complaints with this film, and feel like they would have been hard pressed to make it better. All these reasons make me a bit uneasy about the planned Spielberg/Will Smith "reimagining" of the original manga source material for Old Boy...... hmmmm. We will see.
Next on the list will be Mr. Vengeance.