Obnoxious deadbeat Oh Dae-Su is suddenly abducted and held in captivity. Television is his only solace. After 15 years of isolation and involuntary druggings he is seemingly freed by his captor. His drive for answers and vengeance for time lost throws him into a twisted game of cat and mouse with his demented tormentor. It’s a chase entrenched in violence, conspiracy, unexpected romance and mind shattering devastation.
In “Oldeboui”, Korean Director Park Chan-wook unravels a sickening tale with flare, technical prowess and disturbing visuals. Many of the shots are composed to leave you feeling as pleasant as eating a live octopus would. Yes. The lead, Choi Min‑sik, actually eats a live octopus. It’s just as shiver-inducing as you could imagine. The character’s indifference and the struggle of the octopus really encapsulates the whole film.
The lighting in “Oldeboui” is a stark play on the lines and shadows of worn faces and sinister settings. The colouring, which is seeped in hues of green, is about as grungy as the subject matter itself.
The violence is gratuitous, but it’s not the central focus of this revenge flick. That’s not to say it wasn’t well constructed or paced. The innovative hallway fight scene is one of the most captivating fight scenes to date (both in choreography and cinematography). In a wonderful wizard-like single take, Oh Dae-Su is faced with a seemingly endless amount of foes. Both he and the viewer are left completely exhausted. It’s shot at one angle, with each gruesome blow and stab intimately displayed for our eyes only.
The action ends up being overshadowed by the perturbed climax of the film. Going into “Oldeboui” I expected the stylish choreography, and raw action – and they deliver. Literally everything else was about as predictable as a punch to the face. While asleep. From an alien. The climax will leave you wide-eyed for hours. I was left walking around in dismay and nothing (so far) has ever shocked me plot-wise. The final scene will leave you with the feeling of a live octopus in your stomach hellbent on trying to escape the way it came.
As shocking as the ending was, the underlying theme of “revenge comes with a cost” isn’t anything new. “Oldeboui” just takes it to a whole other level.
I urge people to watch “Oldeboui” with subtitles not english dubbing. You should always try to give a foreign film the respect it deserves by watching it in its native language. There is an added richness to the visuals. Pacing is usually botched and emphasis is usually missed with English dubbing. The delivery of the Korean lines compliment the aggressive violence and wrenching story. Actually, it fuels it.
Fun Fact: The film was first a Japanese manga of the same name, “Oldboy”.
Watch it for the twists. Watch it for the gory action. Watch it if you want to be deeply unnerved by a film.
I give “Oldeboui” 8.5 octopus tentacles out of 10 years in captivity.