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Ask not why you were imprisoned. Ask why you were set free. 

Year: 2013 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Spike Lee 
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson  

After 20 years of unexplained captivity following the death of his wife, Joe Doucett's (Josh Brolin) sudden freedom isn't all it appears. Following the kidnapping of his daughter by his former captor, Joe merely has to answer a simple question to keep her alive: why was Joe ever set free? But the search for the answer draws Joe deeper into a conspiracy that is slowly consuming him; his hunt for vengeance driving him further and further into madness.

Oldboy is the American remake of the now infamous 2003 film of the same name, and works as both a homage and update to the original. It's helped by the fact it's directed by auteur Spike Lee, who makes sure to not shy away from the brutality of the original in this update. It does make this a film for the not-so-squeamish, however.

The film has an impressive cast with Josh Brolin on gruff, bewildered form as Joe, a man hopelessly lost amongst the plots of others yet still fighting for his survival. Shartlo Copley is suitably menacing as the villain of the piece, the man with a serious grudge against Joe. But it's Samuel L. Jackson who shines in a somewhat smaller role than usual as Chaney, associate of Joe's enemy and “jailer” of Joe's prison.

Remakes generally end up either being on par with the original or, more usually, their significantly lesser counterparts. Oldboy manages to fall into the former category, holding up not only as a good retelling, but as a good film in its own right. If you think you can stomach it, Oldboy should be one to watch.

Tom Freeman

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Screenings of this film:

2013/2014 Spring Term (digital)