Mark Cunliffe’s review published on Letterboxd:
I missed this back in February when it was released in cinemas (remember those things?) and I guess I'm pretty late to the party now but, I held out and went in knowing as little as possible and now, well this is likely to be my favourite film of 2020.
I like how political cinema is getting right now, it's truly reflecting the deep inequalities of our time. I mentioned in my Joker review last year that political filmmaking cannot and indeed should not be the sole domain of my favourite filmmakers, Ken Loach or Mike Leigh, because their reach in terms of audience is much smaller than your average blockbuster. In my view genre cinema needs to be subverted to say something about the world we live in, challenge convention and call for change.
Parasite is genre cinema, it's just that the genre turns on a sixpence at any given moment. The first half is a glorious, playful long con; an entertaining hustle movie that is impossible to watch without a big smile on your face. Somewhere around the halfway mark however, the tone shifts. Drama dictates that a threat must arise and things suddenly get a lot more unpredictable and much darker. The genius of Bong Joon-Ho - and he is a genius, having watched just two of his films I feel wholly comfortable in saying that - is that these gear changes are as smooth as the driving of one of his central protagonists. Bong has an innate ability to prepare his audience by richly texturising every moment of his film so that we are aware of the social commentary that drives the narrative. It's impossible to ignore the depravation of the Kim family, just as it is equally impossible not to sympathise with their desire to seize upon the chance to better themselves, no matter how wicked, morally dubious or illegal their methodology in capitalising upon that chance may actually be. Indeed it is arguably here where Bong's social commentary reaches peak clarity; this is a film about the working classes set against one another for the scraps left behind by a sheltered, wealthy class who oftentimes scarcely even notice them... at least when they're downwind.
Parasite is an almighty success, defying the odds by being a rare Korean hit with Western audiences (to the chagrin of Donald Trump who obviously was hardly going to be a fan of anything that is at once both foreign and points out socio-economic inequality) simply because what it has to say transcends the language barrier. The notion of class inequality is universal, and Bong records it not just in a manner that is thought provoking, but in one that is both deeply thrilling, wickedly comic, wholly entertaining and beautifully played by his incredible ensemble cast.