It’s a dark and brutal revenge thriller that plays with conventions like so many Korean films do, and overshadows British and American films of the same genre. It’s violent with lots of twists and turns to keep you engrossed. It bears similarities to I Saw the Devil, which Min-Sik also starred in, with it’s violent storyline about revenge and justice.
After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, but has to find his captor within five days. His journey to find his captor is brutal, he meets and falls in love with a young woman and both their lives are thrown into turmoil; but it’s not all as natural as it seems.
Admittedly, having been to a talk about Korean cinema which gave away the main twist of the story, I knew how it would end before I even started to watch it. So the revelation that ultimately concludes the film (which I won’t give away, in case you haven’t seen it) came as no surprise. Unfortunately my experience watching the film would have been a lot different had I not known the ending, and it’s a shame that I did.
Some of the camera techniques and visual effects are incredible. They keep the film moving at a fast pace but undermine the conventions of the genre to keep the audience on their toes, which is a technique that I personally love.
I don’t know whether parts of the film are meant to be funny, perhaps the fact that I laughed out loud several times says more about my sense of humour than it does the film, but there are sparks of comedy; a lot of which is dry and ironic rather than slapstick. A giant ant sitting on a seat on board a train, for instance, is one of the many flashes of comedy that made me laugh out loud. Again this is quite similar to I Saw the Devil, there are moments of comedy that seem out of place yet completely natural. Ultimately the comedy elements make the film more real. Dae Su-Oh (Choi Min-Sik) is relatable as a person and not just a character in a narrative because of his very human flaws that are so often lacking in film characters. When he jumps into bed and hits his head on the head board for example; little touches like that are a subtle reminder that he’s a normal person.
Everything about this film is brilliant. The story, the acting but most of all the way it’s shot. So many clever details are added to undermine conventions and keep you on your toes the whole way through.