REVIEW: Not to be missed, ‘Parasite’ is a disarming, masterful work of art

Director & co-screenwriter Bong Joon Ho accepts the Academy Award for his 2019 film ‘Parasite.’ The film won four awards over the course of the evening and became the first foreign language film to win Best Picture in the history of the Academy. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

One would think we’d read the final word on Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite since the movie’s 2019 theatrical release and its February 9th Academy Award win for Best Picture, among others. Add to the accolades this film is garnering, and Criterion has already announced that Parasite will become one of its future releases, and rightfully so — making Parasite one of the first films to be bestowed with such an honor so very early in its career as a picture.

Some films wait decades to be lavished with such praise.

But the praise has been earned.

So perhaps this will finally be the final word.

Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite is a riveting drama film which follows the class struggles present in South Korea and, in general, the modern capitalist world as depicted through the relationship between two distinct families. 

Director Bong Joon Ho has intended for audience members to view this film without any knowledge of the plot as such if you would like to enjoy the film thoroughly, avoid reading through this piece.

This is not a spoiler-free review.

The film follows the Kim family, a family of four — dad Ki-Taek, mother Chung-Sook, daughter Ki-Jeong, and son Ki-Woo. The Kim family lives in a rundown subterranean home and struggles to earn bread on a daily basis. They are introduced to the affluent Park family who, despite their enormous prestige and wealth, are gullible and easily manipulated. As such, the Kim family slowly cons its way into working for the Parks and living off the large wages they receive from the family. 

The Kims come to enjoy their newfound wealth and freedom while the Park family is away on a camping trip until an unexpected visitor arrives at the Park estate. From there, what begins as a sometimes humorous, perhaps even innocuous story of a family of grifters finally discovering the chance to live above their station transforms into an unexpectedly and ultimately sinister reckoning for both families. 

Herein lies the magic of Joon Ho’s film: Like the Park family itself, the viewer is lulled into a false sense of security, believing himself entirely protected against danger. But the Parks aren’t safe and neither is the viewer. 

Similarly, like the Kim family, the viewer is also lulled into a false sense of security, as if he has somehow managed to pull off the greatest cheat imaginable. But the Kims aren’t going to get out of this twisted scenario unscathed and neither will the viewer.

In the end, no one is safe: neither the Kims, nor the Parks, nor you the viewer.

Herein lies the magic of Joon Ho’s film: Like the Park family itself, the viewer is lulled into a false sense of security, believing himself entirely protected against danger. But the Parks aren’t safe and neither is the viewer. 

Bong Joon Ho isn’t a new name when it comes to directing films worthy of praise. His most recent film aside from Parasite was Okja, another South Korean film that was critically acclaimed. His movies tend to thematically comment on the socioeconomic condition of the world we live in. For instance, Okja is a commentary on the hypocrisy of large level business practices. This same trend can be found in Parasite as it can be interpreted as a commentary on the brutal cycle of competition brought on by capitalism.

The actors, unknown to many of us viewers here in the U.S., were nothing but phenomenal. There isn’t a certain actor or actress who makes this movie stand but rather every single one that collectively makes this film as entertaining as it is. Each one of them sells her or his role perfectly to the audience. 

The writing, most especially, is what makes this movie stand out. In the first ⅓ of the movie, you expect the movie to head in a certain direction — a direction similar to a fun heist film — but then suddenly the feel of the movie changes and becomes a tragedy where it becomes harder to laugh at what is going on in the movie. This sudden change in tone is characteristic of Bong’s writing and it is what makes Parasite such an entertaining film.

It cannot be predicted easily even by the most avid movie viewers. 

This movie will have you laughing and having a good time then, within the blink of an eye, you will be horrified as you watch the events of the movie take a dark turn towards the tragic.

This film will genuinely have you thinking about it for days to come. Not many movies in the modern day and age can have audience members dwell on its plot after a screening but Parasite manages to do it.

All of these details add up to a classic movie, a masterpiece, which everyone should watch if they have the opportunity to. It is unlike many other movies that audiences have grown accustomed to over the decades and introduces a new method of storytelling slightly reminiscent of the narrative of Jordan Peele’s 2017 Get Out

Like Get Out, it is not a movie that follows the expectations of the viewers. It introduces its own unique style that borrows from different established genres and blends them into a one-of-a-kind movie that other films in the future will attempt to replicate.

It should be a priority to watch Parasite if you want to enjoy a true piece of art.

Parasite is rated R.

Anuraj Nair is a pop culture critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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