Oldboy Mind Job Discussion and Explanation
Oldboy Mind Job Discussion and Explanation - Oldboy is a really well done movie with a very deep downward spiral that keep us intrigued the entire way.
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Oldboy Mind Job Discussion and Explanation

Generally speaking I come to you with movies that I think are worth watching and worth your time. I’m not really a movie review site in that I don’t watch all movies and review them from the awful to the exceptional. It’s just not worth it to me. If I get 15 minutes into a movie and it is atrocious? I punch out. And really? Why would I take my time and yours to tell you about it.

I look at you all as friends. As individuals that, if together at a party, I’d say the same things there that I would say here. (Which, might just be… why I have no “real life” friends. Hahahah.) “Dude, this movie was so fantastic, you have to check it out.” “Oh yeah? What’s it called?!?” “No idea, but it’s the one about the thing and the thing.” Happens all the time in real life. People know I run this thing and so they expect me to drop a list on them mid-party. Yah, no.

But this movie isn’t me bringing a movie to you, this one is you guys bringing a movie to me! Which, I love it when you do that. Triangle is a perfect example of that. And Stay is another great example too of another movie that you all brought to me. Yes, it’s hard to get me to pull up an older movie because so much of my time is spent sifting through the current new release section. But don’t stop throwing that one movie you adore at me. Just keep trying! hahaha.

So with Oldboy, I’m doing something a little different. I’ve watched it about 80% of the way through so far. But I’ve heard really crazy things about where this movie goes in the last five minutes. So I thought I’d walk everyone through to the almost end, and then do some guessing and drop some theories about where the ending might go before I actually find out for myself. And then I’ll circle back and see how far off I was after the fact. Then we’ll talk through the actual ending and see if we can make heads or tails out of it together. But for right now, if you haven’t seen the movie, watch this trailer, go find the movie at your local blockbuster and get a copy.

Ok, so that is your cue to leave if you are clueless as to what Oldboy is. So, shall we away then? Let’s start talking about what happens in the movie so that we can get to my guesses as to what the right hook is going to be. Dying to lay them out for you all… (SNICKER SNICKER, HE THINKS ITS GOING TO BE THAT?!?! HAHAHAH.)

Oldboy General Overview

The setup of Oldboy is simple enough. Dae-su has been abducted from his life and imprisoned in a room by himself, devoid of any contact with the outside world. And while Dae-su is imprisoned to live his life alone, someone stabs and kills his wife and daughter. The perpetrator planted fingerprints on a cup at the crime scene which leads the police to believe that it was Dae-su, who had disappeared years before… only to reappear and kill his family.

As Dae-su’s stay gets longer and longer he stops and begins writing down ever person that he might have wronged at any time. “But I’ve sinned so much.” Which IMMEDIATELY gets me thinking about Franz Kafka’s book, The Trial. You know the story right? Guy is informed that he needs to appear before the court to begin his trial… right? But for the life of him he can’t figure out what he is charged with. His interactions with the court are all nebulous quicksilver encounters slipping through his fingers. Right? And the further he goes through this horrible hell, K becomes more and more sure of his guilt. Not guilt specifically… but guilt generally. Does that make sense?

Here, if you were to walk up to me out of the blue, and ask me if I was guilty. I’d say, “Pardon me?” And then you’d repeat yourself, and I’d basically be forced to say, “Why yes, yes I am guilty. Thanks for asking.” But if you were to walk up to me and ask me if I were guilty of jaywalking in Tajikistan, I’d say, “Why no, I am not. I’ve never been to Tajikistan.” If though, you were wondering as to my general status of guilt, I’d have to admit that I was guilty. Guilty of a great many things. Which is not sort of what we see Dae-su going through here, it’s literally exactly what he is going through. He’s on trial for his life and he has no idea by whom.

After 15 Years Dae-Su Is Released

After leaving his home/cell, Dae-Su realizes he is a fugitive and he can’t go home. Soon he is given a wallet and a phone, and my spidey senses go into high alert. Hrm. What is this all about? But it definitely helps carry the story forward as he is completely adrift without money and a place to stay.

But Dae-Su is intensely looking for the man that had him locked up for fifteen year. And eventually he gets a call from his captor, Woo-Jin. “I miss you. I’m a scholar of Dae-Su.” And the next time Woo-Jin calls he mentions that he is looking for the Count of Monte Cristo… which should give us hints. Have you read Monte Cristo? where a man is wrongfully imprisoned and he spends his entire life planning his revenge. He is released, earns a fortune and then dismantles his arch-enemy piece by piece. But if this is coming from Woo-Jin, then he is obviously mocking Dae-Su. But Dae-Su is determined.

And just to jump the story forward, because there is a ton going on here including Dae-Su dismantling a guy’s teeth with a hammer and a hand that is delivered. But the most important thing that Dae-Su learns is that Woo-Jin slept with his sister. Dae-Su was witness to their messing around, and he told one other friend about it. Soon after Woo-Jin’s sister was found dead after jumping from the nearby dam. So Dae-Su has done it, he’s completely uncovered the reason for his imprisonment by Woo-Jin. This was Woo-Jin’s revenge for the death of his sister… maybe.

So What Is My Guess?

Alright, I’ve stopped the movie about 40 minutes from the ending because I can sense that the movie is revealing more and more and more. Dae-Su has made his play, and Woo-Jin has asserted that his sister wasn’t actually pregnant, that it was a psychological pregnancy. But that seems false to me. Not sure why I thought I could dismantle this movie in advance, but there are some definite key indicators happening here. Lots and lots of them. So maybe I should walk through each one and see if they add up to something before I finish the movie.

First hint is the drugs that were used on Dae-Su to keep him from going insane. It was a ristedal solution that was an anti-schizophrenia medication? I’ve never heard of it. But I’m just taking the movie at its word. So maybe there is something to do with Multiple Personality Disorder happening here that we aren’t privy to yet? And what about the ticking clocks at the beginning? Seems like the movie is fixated with time and looping calendars. Maybe he is looping in time? But the biggest tell that I wrote down in my notes that seems like an important detail is the visit from the female hypnotist that made three visits to Dae-Su’s cell over the previous 15 years. We were never given an adequate explanation for her visits or why she came. Not yet anyway. If this movie doesn’t clear her visits up I’m burning this thing to the ground! Hahahah.

So, why was Dae-Su imprisoned? I think the movie is being honest so far. He was imprisoned because of his betrayal of Woo-Jin and the death of his sister. But then what is the big right hook that everyone is so excited about. I only have one other thing that I can’t make heads or tails of. After Dae-Su and Mi-do sleep together, or maybe it was just before,  Woo-Jin says,… “Has Dae-Su fallen in love with Mi-do already?” Why? What is so important about them falling in love? What is the key to their relationship? The only thing that I can guess at… right now anyway, is that Dae-Su and Mi-do have an important relationship from their time at Evergreen? And maybe Woo-Jin just keeps wiping Dae-Su’s memory and forcing him to relive this rediscovery over and over again? Sort of like Memento? The only thing that leads me to that is the comment he makes to Mi-do about next time coming back as a younger man?

Nope. I can’t piece it together. This movie has me confused I guess! Let’s finish it out and see what happens.

Oldboy Heading Into The Big Reveal

Ah. Oh. Woah? WOW! Hahahaha.

Ok ok ok, so the hypnotist definitely was the key to this entire movie. “You keep asking the wrong questions, it’s not “why did woo-jin imprison me?” ‘It’s why did he release me after 15 years?'” As it turns out, Woo-Jin would appear to be the Count of Monte Cristo. We had this entire movie upside down! So, here’s how the movie ends… Dae-Su and Woo-Jin dialogue and we learn that when Dae-Su was released from his prison he had had his memories of his past wiped. But he had also been imprinted with a number of queues. “First we programmed you to go to a certain restaurant, then react to the ring tone and say, ‘do you like your clothes’ next Mi-do was programmed to react to the man who says this, and she touched your hand, upon touching your hand your reaction would be to pass out..

Right, so every single moment after Dae-Su left his cell was scripted in intricate detail. Mi-do and Dae-Su fell in love because they were basically forced to by Woo-Jin. But why? Why would he do that? Welp, apparently Mi-do is Dae-su’s daughter. Think about it, Dae-Su is abducted and sent to live in his cell. Woo-Jin then kills Dae-Su’s wife, but not his daughter as the news report suggested. Woo-Jin gets his kicks watching Dae-Su and Mi-do both. One in house house, the other in his cell. And then he manipulates them both into falling in love. He has upped the ante from the story of his love for his sister, to Dae-Su’s love for his daughter.

And apparently this is such a well orchestrated revenge, and such a masterful end game, that Dae-su vows to be Woo-Jin’s dog and ultimately cuts his own tongue off. (Which, I have to say, was extraordinarily gross.) But this maneuver keeps Woo-Jin from forcing Dae-Su from opening the package and finding out the truth. Woo-Jin commits suicide because his life goal was complete and there wasn’t anything else for him to live for. Right?

The only thing left for Dae-Su to do is to hypnotize both of them, erase the chaos of the past years, and the truth from his own memory. And the movie ends with a monumental lie – “I love you Dae-Su.”

Ending Thoughts on Oldboy

I’m sure that like 5 or 10 of you have recommended this movie over the past couple years. So thanks for the recommendation. It lived up to the hype. It went right when I thought it would go left. I assumed the reveal was some sort of looping timeline thing with an infinite digression. Kinda like Arq. (whoops! Sorry if you haven’t seen that yet! hahah.) But instead it was an inverted Count of Monte Cristo play. Instead of following Edmond Dantes we were actually following around Fernand Mondego. And the Count of Monte Cristo was Woo-Jin who was exacting his well calculated revenge on his number one nemesis. Sure, the Monte Cristo analogy falls apart quickly. But it is interesting that we found out that Woo-Jin didn’t actually kill his sister. He was actually trying save her.

Regardless, I enjoyed the movie. It was a bit bad in the editing department. So bad that I actually thought a number of disjointed cuts were time loop jumps. But they were just poorly cut transitions! hahah. But over all, it was a fantastic ride. Kudos to everyone that recommended it. What did you think of it? What were your thoughts after getting hit with that right hook?

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15 Responses

    • Taylor Holmes

      Hahahaha. Thankya, thankya kindly. It was good. Really good. Thanks for the recommendation. I need to consolidate a single list of things I haven’t seen yet. Or heck, I need to start letting some of you reglers start writing reviews so I can read along with everyone else. Anyway, great little flick.

      Reply
      • Shelby

        I have an excel document with all the movies I want to see (and another with all the ones I have seen). I include the title, year, and rotten tomatoes critic score UNTIL I’ve watched it, and then I replace that with the genre. For anyone who is less crazy, I recommend at least having a simple list in Word/notepad. I keep a lot of this information because I don’t have a very good memory and I often forget if I’ve seen a movie. So it helps me a lot. I mean, who can quickly list their favorite movies without forgetting any? I can’t!

        One day when I’m super old I will be very thankful to my younger self for keeping such detailed records.

      • Taylor Holmes

        Fork the list over Shelby! The not seen yet list that is. You holding out on us? Heck, both lists! Who knows what I’ve missed! I have definitely over-shared and you are way under shared. Way way!

        I sort of keep the really hot ones I’m dying to see in a list. But it is a tight 2 or 3 month window. Movies like Molly’s Game (Sorkin!), the Big Sick, Crown Heights, the Little Hours, Water & Power, and Blade Runner… but that’s really it right now. I mean sure, Star Wars… and other obvious bigs. But I worry a lot about having a Sundance flick with huge potential slip buy me. But beside worrying, I don’t do much about it.

        So here’s what we’ll do. I’ll give you a page to maintain here on the site, wherein you place your list on it, and we’ll connect alarm bells, calzones, and fog horns to the dates, and we’ll go from there. And no, no I am not kidding.

  1. Natalia

    This movie messed with me so badly I stared at my computer for minutes after it ended (and then proceeded to put it on the “never watching again” list) but man, was it good! It’s one of the movies that left the strongest impression on me so far because of the twist. Glad to know you weren’t disappointed by it!

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Just so you know Natalia, Shelby has personally recommended WAY worse movies than this one before. This movie had a tongue being self-severed, Antichrist had much things being self severed. Just saying. I will admit I didn’t get that it was his daughter at first, so I was confused as to why he was acting like a dog. I just didn’t get it. Hahaha. Oh well. Generally I’m on top of it. You win some you lose some.

      Reply
      • Natalia

        Yeah, I’ll admit I don’t have a very diverse list of “movies I have watched” so I wouldn’t know much worse than this. In fact, that list is only growing because I was looking for mind job movies and just happened to stumble upon your website, which then led me to making a way too long list of movies to watch – and I have to tell you I have not been disappointed.

      • Taylor Holmes

        Well, make sure you let us know which movies you are watching and what you thought of them. I have a pile I can recommend if you just give me a movie that you liked… Always start with The One I Love. That is ground zero for low key mind job movies… and then work your way up from there.

  2. Ryan

    YES! You finally watched it! Good to hear and it’s great to read about your reaction as you progressed along the movie! I’ve shown this to so many of my friends just to watch their reactions and thoughts too.
    I love that you connected it to Kafka’s The Trial. Both are so oppressive and “kafka-esque” (excuse my redundancy lol)
    One thing that I noticed was the parallel between the Dae-Su at the beginning of the movie (when he is held at the police station) and at the end (when he is begging Woo-Jin). He basically goes through the same actions such as begging, anger, sadness and even sings. Not sure what to make of it, but both moments are right before a major life event. Wonder what you think.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Oh that’s a great parallel. I hadn’t noticed that opening and closing parallel. Well played. And thanks for the recommendation. Kudos.

      Reply
  3. john hazard

    If you liked Oldboy, then don’t stop there when it comes to South Korean movies. Check out, I saw the Devil, The Chaser, The Man from Nowhere, The Host, The Wailing, Train to Busan, Bedevilled, and so many more great movies. (On a side note, I didn’t mind the remake of Oldboy. Most people claim to hate it, but it wasn’t bad.)

    Reply
    • McElroy

      Agree with you, “john hazard” and thank you for sharing list of other amazing Korean movies. Admittedly, I didn’t dislike the remake of Oldboy either…but the original had a different depth the remake lacked…”bad editing” aside lol!

      Reply
      • Dan T

        What’s your take on the VERY end? I always assumed, from the dazed look on our hero’s face that HIS memory didn’t get wiped and that he knows very well that he is messing with his daughter and tortured by the memory but he doesn’t dare break contact because it would hurt her too much… just as much as her finding out the truth. So he’s continuing with the unpardonable sin of incest as a way of psychological self-punishment?

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