Oh Daesu (Min-sik Choi) is a drunk and belligerent man whose been brought into police custody while on his way home to be with his daughter for her birthday. Once his friend Joo-hwan (Dae-han Ji) comes to pick him up, he makes a call to his daughter to let her know he's on his way home...or so he thought. The next time we see Daesu, it's been months since he went missing on his daughters birthday and he's been imprisoned in a small room with nothing but a bed, TV, toilet, shower, and a regular diet of the same fried dumplings on a daily basis. Daesu is literally a prisoner of this room, with no idea who his captors are. Watching the news, he learns of his wife's murder, with him as the prime suspect as things taken from his "new" home are placed at the scene of the crime. All he can do is watch helplessly. Months turn in to years, fifteen to be exact, and as the years go by, Daesu fills his time by digging an escape tunnel behind his bed, training his body and mind, and watching television; his only contact with the outside world. Just as his escape tunnel is near completion, Daesu is surprisingly released from his prison and awakens on a rooftop in the outside world. As you can imagine, the world he once knew has changed significantly. As he begins to explore this new world, he is intercepted by a homeless man in front of a sushi restaurant who hands him a wallet full of money and a cellphone. Just because he's been released, doesn't mean he isn't being watched. After going into the sushi restaurant, he meets a beautiful young woman by the name of Mido (Hye-jeong Kang) preparing the sushi. When she reaches to touch Daesu's hand, he passes out, later awakening in her apartment. The two seem to be taken with one another, and Mido, after learning of Daesu's tale, agrees to help him on his quest to find out who's responsible for killing his wife, what happened to him and where his daughter could possibly be after all these years. Eventually Daesu confronts the person responsible for his capture, Woo-jin Lee (Ji-tae Yoo), but instead of exacting his revenge on the man, he decides to play Woo-jin's game in order to find out the why instead of the who.
Oldboy is considered to be part two in Chan-wook Park's "vengeance trilogy", with parts one and two being Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance respectively. That being said, this is in no way a sequel and is a stand-alone film that simply shares vengeance as the central theme that ties the films together. With that out of the way, I can say that Oldboy is a movie that puts an entirely new spin on the desire to seek revenge. The story is smart, in the sense that it has you guessing from the very beginning as to who's responsible for ruining Daesu's life and as to why they're doing it. It's done in such a strong, well thought out way that when everything is finally revealed to the viewer, you'll genuinely be shocked at the end. There is a lot of shocks to be had in this movie, and it can be graphic at times, but none of it seems contrived. The way in which Oldboy is filmed wonderful, and I hate to mention the hallway hammer scene as everyone seems to, but it's a sight to behold and the shot is outstanding. The acting is award-winning stuff, and the Grand Bell Awards in South Korea seemed to agree as Min-sik Choi was awarded best actor and Chan-wook Park was given the best director award. Seriously, Min-sik as Oh Daesu is simply amazing and shows a range that couldn't be described as anything but professional. Ji-tae Yoo is also superb as the emotionally drained Woo-jin. Both actors make all of the pain expressed seem absolutely real.
So is Oldboy worth all of the acclaim it's received? Absolutely. If you disagree or don't "get" the movie, than I'd honestly be surprised. Do yourself a favor and see what all the fuss has been about. With an American release courtesy of Tartan (r.i.p.), the film is now more accessible than ever, so you definitely have no excuse. (Lee)