Decision to Leave Review

Park Chan Wook is considered one of the best directors in the world by filmgoers and critics. His films such as Oldboy, The Handmaiden, and Stoker have garnered a lot of success with critics such as myself and fans alike. His latest film Decision to Leave is another great film from this acclaimed South Korean director. With all the buzz coming out of Festival De Canne the positive buzz is very much merited.

Have Joon (Park Hae Il, Memories of Murder) is a police detective in South Korea. He ends up getting a case where he has to investigate the so-called murder of a mountain climber. One of the main suspects is the dead man’s wife Seo Rae (Tang Wei, A Long Day’s Journey into Night) The detective starts to get so enamored with this woman that he all but ruins the investigation because of his feelings for the woman. Once they separate from each other this investigation becomes more confusing for everyone involved.

Wook creates a film that has the vibes of Basic Instinct to some degree but also crafts his own narrative. A narrative unravels and comes back together again multiple times. The length of the film which is well over two hours is completely needed because of how much that is crammed into this mystery/ romance. The murders in the film are a subtext to the overall relationship between these two main characters. Their relationship is one of cat and mouse at times but then it’s wonderful and beautiful at other times. In the end these two characters are completely unlikeable despite my assessment of them during other scenes in the movie. This film is very complicated.

Besides the amazing storyline that Wook creates he also accompanies it with great technical aspects. The first is the editing of Sang beom Kim. The editor infuses this movie with a life of its own. Many split-screen scenes and scenes where people were overlaid with different backgrounds are just incredible. This is some of the best editing I’ve seen all year. The second is the cinematography by Kim Ji Yong. There are many screens where characters are gazing over cliffs or into the ocean which are quite beautiful to behold. The rest of the film has many great shots of various angles and through objects such as reflections in mirrors or through windows. This is some amazing cinematography even though some scenes are oddly filmed by Wook. It all adds to the talent behind the camera.

I love murder mysteries and this one is one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. There is some much going on in this movie, it’s just too much to talk about. There are so many twists and turns it’ll make your head turn around like an owl. The depth and layers of this film are incredible. Just when you think this movie couldn’t go any further it does and it’s still very much engaging. Wook keeps the story going. For those that think it’s too long, I will say a film is never too long or too short. It’s precisely as long as it needs to be to get this story across properly to the audience watching on Mubi at home or at the theater.

Decision to Leave is a mind-bending murder mystery with a side plot of romance. It has a well-developed narrative that will keep the audience guessing all the way through its two-hour and eighteen-minute runtime. The two main actors played by Hae Il and Wei are both phenomenal in the movie. They give nuanced and provocative performances. The technical aspects of the film such as the editing and cinematography are the strengths of the movie. The camera work is impeccable. The story is a bit hard to follow but worth it if you have the patience to wait it out. It’s a revelation once the mystery is finally revealed. The heart of the film is the relationship between the two main characters. They carry this incredible film and they deserve a lot of credit for that. Wook can add another great film to his resume. I hope the audience gives this film the time it deserves and hopefully it’ll get some awards buzz this awards season as well.

5 stars 

Dan Skip Allen

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