There’s a pretty good reason as to why Oldboy was one of the most viewed South Korean flicks of all time. It’s not quite an effort that seeks to include all modes of filmmaking, but at the same time, there’s a great many different angles being exposed here. The plot’s all linear, with a few flashbacks tossed in to flesh out the story, but for the most part, viewers are barreling forward along with the film’s main character Oh Dae-su attempting to figure out what in God’s name is going on and why it all seems so bizarrely fabricated.
As a disclaimer, there’re probably a number of adult types who won’t go in for either the sporadic gushing forth of blood or the surprising twist towards the end – and it is properly surprising even if that’s a rarity in these times.
When this whole thing begins, viewers find ourselves trapped inside a dimly lit, kind of skuzzy looking apartment, being held captive alone with Dae-su. Things don’t look too promising, but since there’s probably some allegory at work connecting forced captivity and being a part of humanity, it’s alright.
Reality becomes forever distorted through a series of gassings, forcing a slumber upon the main character in an attempt to break his will – we find out the reason for all of this much, much later. Eventually, though, our hero widdles his way through a wall and he’s off to a creepy freedom.
Accosted by a bum and handed a cell phone as well as a wallet full of money – S. Korean money, for whatever reason, just looks like checks – Dae-su heads off to get something to eat, brining him in touch with a girl whose company he’s in for the remainder of the film. Again, much later, viewers find out why.
But as the protagonist attempts to reconcile his captivity with life leading up to the imprisonment, there’re a number of auld stories which become relevant. While working it all out, Dae-Su, understandably, becomes intimate with his new found friend who increasingly is seen as a sort of aide on his journey through the past.
A few action sequences with Dae-Su beating up a ridiculous number of assailants are added in to fill some void – at two hours long, we all could have done without them, though. But as the body count piles up, a weirdo family secret gets unveiled and leaves Dae-su in a bad place – bad for him, good for the entertainment value of Oldboy.