Decision to Leave

Decision to Leave is the new thriller from acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-wook, the man behind films like Oldboy and The Handmaiden. This is a far more traditional cop drama with a romance running through it, like the old erotic thrillers of the 80s and 90s. While he is a master of using the camera, conveying the story imaginatively, and getting the best out of his actors, this falls short of his previous work.

Detective Soo-wan is put into the case of a mountaineer’s death. All the signs point to an accident, but things don’t add up when he meets his widow, Soo-rae. As he starts to investigate her and he spends his spare time surveilling her, he finds himself falling for her. Yet this married man is playing a deadly game not only with his own personal life but with the case.

As a premise, this sounds very run-of-the-mill, but Park Chan-wook can make every scene seem like a photographic masterpiece. We are no longer in the realm of a director who just points a camera and shoots. Instead, each shot is as essential to the storytelling as the dialogue. We get images that will amaze and surprise us. You find yourself lost in this world he is creating, which, while impressive, often distracts from the overall story.

The plot of a detective, who struggles to sleep, and whose wife works in a different part of town, which means they only spend time together when the cop is not working, are all part and parcel of these films. You have to have a motive behind his actions. In this case, however, Soo-wan’s relationship with Soo-rae is electric. She is a woman who comes across as a mournful widow, but behind her eyes is a schemer. She isn’t who you think she is.

Park Chan-wook is one of those directors who can handle a twist and a turn better than many. The Handmaiden a lush costume drama of intrigue and one of the most shocking twists I have witnessed on film. Hopes were high for this to have that same impact. However, it does fail to deliver. By the halfway point, in a brilliantly constructed scene where the detective works out what happened to the mountaineer, this would have been a perfect way to end, but the film then has a second half that works less well. The finale is, sadly, a huge disappointment.

The performances are exceptional. Go Kyung-Pyo as the detective, brings an air of experience to his role while never going down the route of traditional cops. He is calm, quiet, and thoughtful, so it becomes a surprise that this gentleman often finds himself in a situation that could jeopardise his career and personal life. Tang Wei as the femme fatale, Soo-rae, is superb. Ice-cool and simmering, her budding relationship with the man investigating her is electric. Here it is if you want to see a couple with incredible on-screen chemistry. It is also the saving grace of the picture.

Decision to Leave is a perfect example of how to make a decent thriller and add a slice of steam without needing to show the relationship in all its glory. Yet as a film from a master of cinema, it isn’t as effective as his previous work. Others may dream of making a film like this. For Park Chan-wook, it disappoints.

3 out of 5

Director: Park Chan-wook

Starring: Go Kyung-Pyo, Tang Wei, Park Hae-il, Jung Yi-Seo, Jeong Min Park

Written by: Park Chan-wook and Seo-Kyong Jeong

Running Time: 138 mins

Cert: 15


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.