Oldboy Blu-ray Review
PictureOldboy is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio at 1080p using the MPEG-4/AVC codec. Overall this is a dark film and some scenes do exhibit some loss of detail. In a comparison between this and my R3 Tartan release it's an improvement, there's no doubt about that and it's difficult to say how much more it can be improved due to the filming style implemented and the post production techniques involved. Overall it's a fantastic image though, free from any sort of dirt or blemishes, too many of which can be distracting.
Colours are spot on, from glorious washes of colour in Oh Dae-su's initial prison, the tracked fight scene, the later almost sepia tones of the flashbacks to the bleak almost clinical offerings of Lee Woo-jin's apartment. All colours are held well within their borders with no sign anywhere of any bleed, be the shot in question dark with some imposing neon lights or in the bright outdoors on the streets of Korea. It is definitely in these later shots where fine detail can be seen. As Oh Dae-su and Mi-do walk down the bustling streets detail can be seen far back into the picture, adding that pop that viewers of high definition material have come to enjoy. Bright whites tend to bloom a little around edges of characters or buildings, especially in the later flashback scenes. This is certainly an artistic choice though.
The post bleaching technique employed on the film does have its downside, that being added grain and a green tint, almost as though these characters are participants in an Asian Matrix. Unlike earlier releases there's no artefacts to be seen. Initial SD releases had traces of pixilation and edge enhancement none are apparent here though, thankfully. Definitely an improvement on the Tartan SD release I own, perhaps let down by some overly crushed dark scenes, which itself might not be a product of the transfer but an artistic decision of the director during filming.
SoundOldboy is graced with a number of audio tracks. There's the original Korean soundtrack brought to us in stunning DTS-HD 7.1, a Korean Dolby Digital-EX offering and rather unusually for recent release a Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 track. I always chose the original language over a dub, I just can't immerse myself in a film if the lip synching is out and dubs never present this well enough to watch in my opinion.
The presentation is largely aggressive, from the demanding tones of the electronic score to thumping use of bass throughout. Panning from the fronts is catered for and handled well with passing cars in busy streets, the surrounds will come alive at the start with rain effects neatly and distinctly coming from the rear sound stage. Dialogue is crisp and clear, emanating from the centre as expected. The alternative flowing orchestral score presents itself well, flowing, with haste, from your fronts each instrument clearly identifiable.
A comparison was made for short scenes with the English Dolby Digital 5.1 dub. Although, in the main, the background score and Foley track are presented well enough it just hasn't got the same depth that the Korean DTS-HD offers up and really is a pale imitation. As for the voice over for the characters, especially Oh Dae-su... well it's just a little silly really, not really fitting the character nor the emotions he portrays. Go for the original Korean DTS-HD on offer, you know it makes sense.
ExtrasMost of the extras on this two-disc edition come on an additional disc and although the main feature on BluRay is not region coded, the extras are contained on a standard definition Region 1 DVD. There are 3 commentaries and all are obviously included on the main BluRay disc, additionally this disc also contains the deleted scenes. All of these extras are in Korean, however there are English subs available.
- Commentary with Director
Park Chan-wook discusses here the main aspects of the film as put together for us. He discusses the actors, the roles they played and the commitment they showed during production. Filming considerations are discussed, and post production film techniques; he wanted to get an almost 'film-noir' style to Oldboy. It's a detailed commentary, even down to the reasons certain film clips where shown on television. His vision of what he wanted Oldboy to become is apparent and comes across well.
- Commentary with Director and Cinematographer
Further discussion on certain scenes, filming decisions taken, lenses to use. Post production techniques employed to produce the visual style of Oldboy. Some of the challenges which they encountered whilst filming cropped up including the fact this was shot during the monsoon period and the lighting was an issue for most of the time. Again another engaging if more technical commentary and serves well as an insight into modern film techniques and the multiple tools a director, cinematographer and editor have access to produce their final vision.
- Commentary with Director and Cast
The third and final commentary here sees Park Chan-wook this time offering up his views along with some of the cast. Even though subtitled and confusing at times it still comes across as the most enjoyable of the three commentaries. The actors themselves realised from an early stage the possibilities of this project and really put their heart and soul into this feature. Obviously with three commentaries on the disc there is some overlap and this is no different but additional contributions of the cast and their interaction between themselves and Park Chan-wook make this a worthwhile watch
- Deleted Scenes
10 deleted scenes in all which can be played individually or all at once. Again with English subs and optional director's commentary with subs. Interestingly enough, especially with the commentary but I was glad not t see them incorporated; I think Oldboy is lean and toned as it currently stands.
- The Making of Oldboy - 0:10:56
Interviews with cast and crew on their own contribution to this feature. The writing (including deviations from the original Manga graphic novel), casting, scene construction, cast input and directorial decisions are discussed. Colour use is discussed and although a lot of this information is available in the various commentaries, albeit extended, this comes across a little better because you're actually able to see who's talking whilst assimilating the English subs.
- Production Design - 0:13:12
Further revelations about certain aspects of Oldboy's production; this time the behind the scenes work which went into the visual design of this film. Costumes, hairstyles, wallpaper, repeating patterns are discussed and how these fit into the whole visual theme.
- The Music Score - 0:16:48
Oldboy has a fantastic score, offered up as a combination of flowing orchestral movements and stylised, almost brutal, electronic sessions. The two musicians responsible also collaborated with Park Chan-wook on earlier projects and here they discuss how they contributed their own style to the sense of themes running throughout the film.
- CGI Documentary - 0:07:37
Even in a film like this it seems these days there's no escaping CGI. Post processing with colour correction, digital, as opposed to analogue, manipulation and scene additions are all discussed. At the end it's apparent that the lead animator felt it an honour to work on this production, a joy to see!
- Flashback - 0:23:25
This is a question and answer session where a select number of viewers of Oldboy Director and cast parry questions from the audience and give frank and firm answers. Another fantastic addition allowing you further insight into the main protagonists of this production.
- Cast & Crew Interviews
A number of small featurettes all of which can be played individually but all of which are classed under this banner. Choi Min-sik, Yu Ji-tae and Kang Hye-jeong, amongst others, all discussing their relative roles in the film. Park Chan-wook discusses other projects and some of his influences. Even some of the supporting actors who would normally not get a look in on many extras here get the opportunity to contribute to this section of this disc release.
- Tartan Asia Extreme, New Releases
5 trailers for other Tartan releases, including the two additional movies which make up this 'revenge trilogy' Worth a watch to see what other Asian films might tempt you. You'd be surprised.
- The Grand Prix at Cannes - 0:08:50
A pleasant short showing Director and cast attending the showing of Oldboy at Cannes. At times you feel they initially feel out of their depth but as it becomes apparent that their work is liked and respected they accept the praise without wallowing in self-indulgence.
This is a comprehensive set of extras for any disc and it's good to see the Korean market fleshing out their releases with such material. OK so the whole set have to be watched with subtitles but you really can't fault it for that can you? When in Rome and all that! I admit watching, or reading, the various commentaries at times became a little confusing as I switched on English dub and had the English commentary sub overlayed; because of this it's difficult to know who's actually talking at any one time, in the main though you can work it out. It's still apparent however, especially during the Cast commentary, that these people relished the job in hand and worked tirelessly to get this film out and onto your screens.
Don't be put off by the fact these are not in English, they are most certainly worth your time.
VerdictOldboy is one of these films that you stumble across which will ultimately broaden your watching experience; and all for the better in my opinion. A work colleague told me that I must watch this and, respecting his opinion, I went out and bought it. Oh how glad I was, it was like a breath of fresh air in my watching playlist and had me on the edge of my seat from the moment we see Oh Dae-su drunk in the police station to those final glorious moments.
I was captivated throughout, so much so that I went and bought the rest of Park's revenge trilogy, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Lady Vengeance and I can honestly say I enjoyed those as much as I did Oldboy, with some of the almost bottomless pit humour from Lady Vengeance literally doubling me up at times. But less of that, simply put, Park's films are a joy to behold, inventive, stylish and not jaded by the Hollywood machinations of corporate bottom line figures.
Fine acting, a detailed, deceptive and engaging storyline coupled with some excellent scoring stand out and really bring you into this movie, not just as a watcher but a participant; sometimes willing, sometimes reluctant. The video quality itself has been bettered but that's due to the nature of the film processing itself and actually lends additional gritty weight to the feature as a whole. Definitely worth a purchase, like myself you might then just want to sample more of this fine director's work.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.67
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- Commentary with Director