Oldboy ★★★★★

One of the most shocking & disturbing stories of revenge you are ever going to come across, Oldboy is a genre-defining contemporary classic that didn't just set an all new benchmark for revenge-thrillers to follow, which as of today still remain unsurpassed, but continues to be arguably the best film to come out from the South Korean film industry.

The story concerns Oh Dae-su who is abducted on the night of his young daughter’s birthday and is held captive in an apartment prison for fifteen years without any explanation for why he is there or who imprisoned him, only to be suddenly freed in the same inexplicable way. The remainder of the film follows him trying to uncover the identity & motive of his captor to exact his revenge.

Co-written & directed by Park Chan-wook, Oldboy marks the second entry in his Vengeance Trilogy (preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance & succeeded by Lady Vengeance) but apart from the shared theme of vengeance, almost every aspect of it is different from the other two chapters, for this picture tears through the confinements of its genre unlike anything before or since.

Intelligently scripted & directed, Park layers the narrative brilliantly with clever twists & unflinching violence and gradually unravels the mystery to give the viewers a cinematic jolt they will have a hard time forgetting. Also elevating the ride is the neat camerawork & meticulous production design. Editing steadily paces the plot and also amplifies the grim mood which in turn further enhances the story's darker elements.

There are several impressive set pieces in here, the film's visual design is effortlessly alluring, and the background score exhibits a modern quality yet is infused with a vintage feel, and is simultaneously heartwarming & heartbreaking. And while there are plenty of favourite scenes to choose from, the craftsmanship behind the corridor fight sequence is a definite standout and is accomplished enough to rank amongst the finest action set pieces out there.

Coming to the performances, it is a trio of outstanding inputs that keeps the drama riveting, with show-stealing work coming from Choi Min-sik who plays Oh Dae-su from inside out and easily overshadows everyone else. Yoo Ji-tae also chips in with a measured rendition in the role of the person responsible for his imprisonment. And lastly we have Kang Haye-jung as Mi-do who proves to be a vital character in the film's unforeseen & unpredictable climax.

On an overall scale, Oldboy makes for an unsettling, unrelenting & unforgiving mystery thriller that will traumatise most of its viewers with its harrowing & sickening depiction of revenge. And with its remarkable blend of excellent direction, brilliant writing, arresting cinematography, tight editing, strong performances & piercing score, it cements its spot amongst the greatest films ever made. A haunting masterpiece in every way, shape & form, Park Chan-wook's magnum opus comes thoroughly recommended.

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