Oldboy (2013): Film Review

Tagline: “Ask not why you were imprisoned. Ask why you were set free.”

Directed by Spike Lee (25th Hour, Malcolm X) comes the new 2013 remake of the ten years older South-Korean action-mystery film of the same name, Oldboy. It stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel L. Jackson and tells the story of a man who was kidnapped and kept in solitary confinement for 20 years, who tries to figure out who did this to him and why. Although it is definitely not a film I’d willingly choose to see, its trailer intrigued me and I thought I’d give it a chance. I was not disappointed in the slightest.

Joe Doucett (Brolin) is an advertising executive and generally a tough guy. He’s your typical vodka lover – still arguing with his ex-wife, doesn’t make an effort to see his daughter and gets himself into all sorts of trouble with his behaviour. Until one rainy night in 1993 when he gets kidnapped and put into a box-sized room resembling a motel, with just a TV and a big photograph of a field as his window. He gets fed Chinese food every day through a hole in his door, but he doesn’t know where he is, who is keeping him there or why. The TV in his room shows news footage of his wife being murdered and the police are accusing him. Joe realises that someone has framed him but at the same time, he sees montages of his daughter growing up so he starts writing her letters. 20 years later he manages to escape, but his journey to finding out the truth won’t be easy – and it will be a truly disturbing one.

Wow. The story is captivating, I’ll give you that, but what makes this film so good is the fight scenes the main character has with everyone that crosses his path! And this comes from a girl who’d rather watch a rom-com any time of the day. There is one particular fight scene in a warehouse which is so brilliantly executed that I can’t find any flaws in it. There are no jump cuts at all, which means it was all filmed in one go (which must’ve taken hours of rehearsal) and despite it being very reminiscent of Bruce Lee, it is pure brilliance.

There is a slight element of romance in this film, as he meets and befriends Marie Sebastian (Olsen) after he escapes, who works as a nurse in a clinic nearby. She helps him in his endeavours and they develop a relationship based on trust and mutual support. Things are never just as simple as they appear to the naked eye, though…

There have been mixed reviews from critics, a lot of which condemn it as a poor, unnecessary remake. I have not seen the original (nor do I intend to), but I personally do think Oldboy is a good film to watch on a boring afternoon with nothing else to do. It’s your standard mysterious thriller where characters need to put all the pieces together so they can solve the master puzzle and it has that blow-your-mind unexpected ending, so I would recommend it – especially if you’re a fan of gory action.


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