alphonse’s review published on Letterboxd :
Oldboy, the second movie of Chan-wook Park's Vegeance Trilogy, is a visceral, devastating and breathtaking ride that follows the story of Oh Dae-su, a man who's locked away for fifteen years for no apparent reason, beginning a long process of dehumanization, and who is finally released so he can find the truth behind his imprisonment and get revenge on the man who ordered the arrest.
When it comes to thrillers, there are no better contemporary filmmakers than the South Korean, and if I may choose the best and most impactful of them all, my answer is Oldboy, one of the most remarkable, brutal and emotionally sweeping stories ever filmed. Apart from the fact that Chan-wook Park's magnum opus is a film about revenge, just as the name of the trilogy suggests, Oldboy is a masterful film about redemption and reconciliation with someone's own actions—it is a dark, sick, semi-kafkaeske and twisted masterpiece that will win both your heart and soul.
As the protagonist of the story, you couldn't have had better than Oh Dae-su, a man who desperately wants to find out the truth about his mysterious arrest, he is a man who, against every circumstance, will try to get his bloody revenge. If this character shines so bright, it's also because of Min-sik Choi, an actor who delivers an absolutely stunning performance as he embodies his dehumanized and broken character without falling into melodramatic cliché.
As a fast-moving action film, Oldboy is also a masterwork—it does not only feature some of the most fascinating and most expertly choreographed action sequences of all time, but also one of the sickest (and most cartoonish) villains cinema has ever seen, never losing its impressive rythm as it keeps you genuinely excited with a sublime pacing and great editing. Embodying the antagonist, Yu Ji-tae is simply brilliant, he does not only capture the sick and twisted nature and essence of his unforgettable character, but also adds some reason and humanity to his decisions.
Even though Oldboy is intensively stylized (filled with brutal action sequences, graphically violent set pieces, an absolutely bizarre atmosphere, dark humour and cartoonish characters that remind you that the film is based on a Japanese manga), it never really loses its sense of reality, Park's dark realism is once again put to practice and it just works in the best way possible—even when the characters are doing something unimaginable, it feels real, raw and authentic; Oldboy is a masterwork that will never meet its twin, even if the Americans try.
Every minute invested in the story and characters of the film is, ultimately, very rewarding as this is definitely one of the most devastating and impactful movies I have ever seen—obviously boosted by Yeong-wook's sublime music score, which remains one of my all-time favorite compositions, providing the picture with a crucial and balanced emotional support (this shit just makes me cry). Whether you agree or not, I feel that Oldboy is simply perfect in every department, it's a sick, twisted and nonstop action ride that makes you both laugh and cry like a bastard alongside Oh Dae-su. Simply put, it's a masterpiece.
Emotionally sweeping and psychologically taut, Park's revenge thriller is a true masterwork that stays with you long after the final credits.