Parasite ★★★★

Threading together its comic and dramatic elements noticeably better than Okja and Snowpiercer, Parasite feels like the clearest exploration of the class themes Bong has spent his whole career probing, even if I don’t feel it’s quite as perfect as the hype suggests (though perhaps a second viewing, which is inevitable, will make me come around). Bong’s heel has always been that his films explain themselves too overtly to the audience, often rely on clunky exposition, and tonally don’t always come together as tightly as they should. Parasite is, for the most part, a noticeable improvement in all of these areas, but not perfect. It has an impeccably tight first act, takes a sharp turn and handles it thrillingly, but flags a little with some uneven pacing and even a couple of borderline eye-rolling moments when the film’s satire is a little too on-the-nose in presentation. These are all nitpicks though, and aren’t really all that consequential when it came to my overall enjoyment of the movie, and it is a gripping, frequently hilarious, and fun movie. Hong Kyung-pyo’s cinematography (which was the best of the year with last year’s Burning) is sensational here, not just bringing out the cavernous depth and layers of the central location, but also giving its shining surfaces a razor-sharp edge. The performances are uniformly superb as well, with Bong regular Song Kang-ho and the great Lee Chang-dong actress Jang Hye-jin particular standouts as the parents in the central family. Overall, this is comfortably Bong’s best since Mother, and seeing as it feels like the culmination of his last decade of work, it will be intriguing to see where he goes from here.

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