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End of confrontation, one must die. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Chan-wook Park 
Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang  
An image from Oldboy

Dae-su (Choi) was an ordinary man until he was locked up in a private makeshift prison, for no apparent reason. Deprived of his family and his life, the only thing left to him was intolerable resentment against the man who imprisoned him. When mysteriously freed, after 15 years, Dae-Su is given just 5 days to find out who he was prisoner to and why.

Mido (Kang) is a young girl working at a Japanese restaurant when the freed Dae-su collapses in front of her. After falling in love with each other, Mido decides to help find Dae-su's answers but is unaware that her own hidden secret lies in his captor's hands.

The film is, in one word, extraordinary. Not only are the plot, direction and cast a welcome entry into the world of cinema, but from a country (Korea) with few 'hits', this film is incredibly impressive. The restaurant scene is the most talked about as Choi ate four live squids in total whilst filming the scene; winning the 'Grand Prix du Jury' at Cannes, the director additionally thanked the squid alongside the cast and crew. Regardless of awards, the film's stylistic glory is in itself rewarding enough. This is especially true of the impressive fight sequence shot in a corridor without a cut; imagine a side-scrolling computer game but with added choreography.

Watching the film unravel, it is difficult to escape the sensation that Dae-Su may be freed physically from his prison, but until he finds what he's looking for, he will remain mentally trapped. However, the truth is neither what Dae-Su nor Mido expect or can endure. The final twist is outstanding and really does take a while to get your head around. Sick, twisted, original and gory, you wont be disappointed with how the story pans out, especially if you're fed up with the cop-out endings so common of Hollywood.

Oldboy is a film about revenge and salvation. The director, Park, claims that revenge has always been seen as a negative emotion. However, for Dae-su, revenge is necessary for his mental health. His only way forward. His only escape.

Phil Lurie

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Spring Term (35mm)
2019/2020 Autumn Term (digital)