Oldboy, from Korean director Chan Wook Park, is the story of a common man Oh Dae Su, who disappears on a rainy night and is mysteriously imprisoned for 15 years by an unknown adversary.  Oh Dae Su escapes with one goal in mind, revenge against his captor. A young waitress, Mi-do who is even more important to Oh Dae Su than he can imagine, helps him in his quest to learn why he was locked away.

The plot is original and unpredictable and Park has a clear, self-assured vision of the story he wants to tell and how he wants to tell it. To this end, he employs a commanding visual style that is integral to the tone of the film. Oldboy is a low budget movie but has a stylized rich look and texture.

The camera movement reveals the narrative in an unobtrusive, subtle manner that lends to the whole feel of the film. There is an otherworldly and isolated air throughout, which is how you imagine Oh Dae Su must feel as he unlocks the pieces of the puzzle.

Inventive transitions help to create the dreamlike atmosphere. In one scene that takes place in Mi-do’s apartment the action shifts to a train, which appears to move into the room. As Mi-do wipes her face on the train the narrative shifts back to her wiping her face inside the apartment. Color is another technique used, often to segue from past to present and there is a repeated digital clock transition reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Spellbound.

Oldboy is mainly a psychological drama but there is a hammer action scene where Oh Dae Su singlehandedly takes on a gang wielding clubs in the corridor of a building that has a comic book tone to it and will have you reaching for the rewind button. There are also a couple of almost unbearable scenes of violence that while not exploitive will make you cringe or turn away. Don’t let this stop you though from watching this truly creative and innovative film that not only packs style but builds to a gut-wrenching emotional climax.

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