Parasite Movie Review
Hype can be a dangerous thing, and hype is the only thing I had going into Bong Joon -Ho’s Parasite, a movie I knew absolutely about but expected, based on the directors past work and the title alone, to be a sci-fi horror film of sorts. I was wrong about the genre, but the hype was real, and the hype was accurate.
Parasite, as you’d expect from Bong, is a precise film. Every spoken word, every character expression, every action large and small, is part of a precise vision, one not easily attained due to a thousand intermixing parts swirling—no, orchestrated—around the core and heart of this Korean drama-satire-thriller. Every moment is building toward Bong’s inevitable, ultimately unpredictable vision, because as calculated as everything is, it’s completely unclear which direction the movie is going to go.
The amazing thing about Parasite, and what has made Bong such an impressive director over the course of his career, is the ability to mask the precision in emotion, grounded by relatable characters, or at least characters you can relate to (there’s a difference). The individuals Bong has assembled here—one could argue most are the pieces of a single entity, a parasite—are not good people, or perhaps they are good people who do bad things to make ends meet or effectively make their way in this word, but they feel like real people, with real emotions and real hardship. You can relate to their circumstances, even if you can’t relate to their actions. Or maybe you can.
Either way, it’s easy to get lost in Bong’s scenes, perfectly written and perfectly acted by all involved, sometimes forgetting that Bong isn’t a director who likes to play things by the book or give the audience what they expect, even if they think they know what to expect. A conventional director probably could have taken this story and made a conventional drama that ends somewhere at the midway point, content to tell a story of class differences and the lengths people will go to fit in, or at least achieve some level of financial stability and prestige.
It’s easy to forget that with Bong, what looks like a somewhat simple if cleverly devised drama is only setting the stage for something else entirely, and in Parasite he hides just that, precisely layering his drama in preparation for the big turn he wants to make, a defining moment that makes you lean forward in your chair as you eagerly wait to see what unfolds, what’s around the next corner.
That is the definition of a quality director, and an excellent film.
Parasite probably isn’t a film that will appeal to everyone—its unwillingness to be conventional by default will turn some off—but it is the kind of unpredictable, calculated, somewhat emotional production you don’t find very often. And should celebrate when you do.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.