Park Chan-wook’s latest film, Decision to Leave, isn’t as violent or as dark as, say, Oldboy or The Handmaiden. However, it’s just as engrossing and intricate as some of his best movies, telling the story of detective Hae-jun (Park Hae-il) who is tasked to solve a case regarding a climber who fell from his favorite peak. Some believe it’s a suicide, while others think there was a murder involved.
Hae-jun starts to investigate, and meets his wife, Seo-rae (Tang Wei). And as he interrogates her further, he slowly starts to develop mild feelings of affection towards her (Lee Jung-hyun), while being married. I say mild, because it’s not a passionate affair. They look at one another, and the way Seo-rae answers his questions is a tad flirtatious. But she’s getting into his mind, and his feelings become more and more intense, which could throw the case into disarray. The detective is flirting with a potential key suspect in the investigation, and could influence who they catch for her husband’s death.
Decision To Leave Official Trailer
But it isn’t until Decision to Leave’s second act comes into play, after a thirteen-month time jump, that it becomes far more riveting and everything starts to click. But I won’t dare spoil what happens. You’ll need to discover it for yourself. And if you allow yourself to immerse inside its methodical first act, which feels deliberately slow, you’ll find one of the best-developed on-screen romances of the year. Tang Wei and Park Hae-il have impeccable chemistry together, but it ‘s Wei who steals the spotlight away from Hae-il every single time she appears on screen. Seo-rae is Chinese and doesn’t perfectly speak Korean, which establishes some language barriers between the two.
However, that doesn’t stop them from falling in love. Hae-jun starts to say “good morning” to his colleagues, after Seo-rae tells him good morning as his car is staked out of her apartment, or starts to listen to Jung Hoon-hee’s Mist after she listens to it with her grandmother. That is the catalyst for their affection — he starts to get into things Seo-rae is into, and within seconds, they start to develop feelings.
Their relationship doesn’t exactly blossom, because Hae-jun’s wife suspects something is lurking with him, as he smells like cigarettes (Seo-rae smokes around him, while he has allegedly quit) and becomes first aware of Mist and starts to hum it, while the entire village knows about it. It creates an interesting rivalry between the two couples, though Hae-jun’s relationship with his wife is barely developed. It’s an extremely clichéd arc too, but would’ve been more effective had Chan-wook spent a slight bit more time with them to understand why Hae-jun is distant from his wife, aside from the usual “duty calls” routine.
But these are minor nitpicks (I’d also love to talk about how anticlimactic the ending felt, but that has a big spoiler alert written on it, and you should go into it as blind as possible, with only the trailer in mind), compared to the overall scope of the film.
Decision to Leave is equal parts emotionally investing and visually stunning. Chan-wook is known for his unnatural and dynamic camera movements throughout his filmography, but the most impressive aspect of the movie comes from the editing. Right from the start, he gives “fragments” of Hae-jun’s life as a detective, as vivid and creative match cuts permeate the frames. In fact, I’d even say that it is a masterclass of match cuts, alongside Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis this year. If you’re an aspiring editor who wants to learn how to create a match cut that brilliantly transitions from one scene to the next, but also has massive emotional impact every time, watch Decision to Leave.
It’s incredible how Chan-wook and editor Kim Sang-bum meticulously cut everything and swiftly move the film from one scene to the next, perfectly linking every element which was presented at the beginning when it’s over. And while the ending does leave a bit to be desired, one can’t help but laud at how deeply thrilling most of Decision to Leave is.
Decision To Leave’s lead performances from Tang Wei and Park Hae-il rank high as some of the very best of the year, its editing is top notch, and Chan-wook’s visual language he creates with cinematographer Kim Ji-yong is another remarkable feat. Even with the minor flaws it contains, it’s one to see, especially if you’re a fan of neo-noir pictures and Park Chan-wook. Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait six years for his next movie.
Decision to Leave is now playing in theaters everywhere. What did you think of Decision to Leave? Let us know your thoughts over on our social media!