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Parasite review: Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar contender lives up to the hype

 

Four months after it was released in the US, UK audiences can finally discover what the fuss is about with Parasite. Remarkably, it lives up to the hype.

Bong Joon-ho’s social thriller won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year and has been a box-office smash, grossing $160 million worldwide. Not bad for a movie you can’t really talk about in detail.

Why? Because to talk about the plot of Parasite beyond the initial set-up is to ruin the experience of watching it.

In the least spoilery terms possible, the movie follows two families – the wealthy (but naive) Park Family and the poor (but street-smart) Kim Family – whose lives intertwine in ways they can’t expect.

Parasite, So-Dam-Park, Woo-Sik-Choi

NEON

Parasite starts off as one thing, a low-key heist comedy of sorts as the Kim children start to con their way into the Park household by becoming tutors to their children. But you’re always on the edge and wary that something else is coming, but with no clue of what that might be.

What Bong Joon-ho has created is deliciously unexpected and sure to take first-time viewers by surprise. Through its various twists and turns, Parasite builds to an unforgettable climax and a perfect final scene, all the while mixing in meaty real-world issues like class and social standing with its genre thrills.

That playfulness isn’t diminished by repeat viewings, which allow you to appreciate just how meticulously crafted it is.

1917 might be the showier Best Picture contender with its ‘one-take’ approach, but Parasite is just as impressive in its storytelling. The intricate framing and camera movement work together to make the Park house its own character in the movie, teasing out the details that hint towards the twists to come.

Parasite, Yeo-Jeong-Jo

NEON

What’s more, the sharp editing gives the movie a momentum that means even on a repeat watch, you’re enthralled and don’t find your attention wandering when you know what’s coming.

Parasite picked up deserved editing and production design nominations at the Oscars to go with its Best Picture, Best Director and writing nods. However, in an ideal world, it would have been in serious contention in the acting categories too.

It’s tricky to pick out the standout in an outstanding cast, who won the Screen Actors’ Guild award for Best Ensemble. From Park So-dam as the Kims’ cunning daughter Ki-jeong to Lee Jung-eun’s put-upon housekeeper Gook Moon-gwang, everyone pitches their performance at the right tone, fully embodying their characters.

Morality is murky in Bong Joon-ho’s world and you’re never sure who you should root for, or if you even should be rooting for anyone at all. That’s how good the cast are – it’d be easier for the Park family to be the rich ‘villains’ and the Kim family to be the downtrodden ‘heroes’, but it’s not that simple.

Parasite, Sun-Kyun-Lee, Yeo-Jeong-Jo

NEON

It’s just one more of the aspects to Parasite that make it such a gripping and original experience. Very few movies in recent years have left you unsure what’s going to happen next, but even when you do know, it’s still a compelling watch.

Quite simply, Parasite is a masterpiece.

Parasite is out now in the US and is released in the UK on February 7, with a nationwide preview event on February 3.

Director: Bong Joon-ho; Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Jo Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-sik, Park So-dam, Chang Hyae-jin; Running time: 132 minutes; Certificate: 15


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