Saturday, March 16, 2019

REVIEW: Office (live action movie)

[This review includes slight spoilers.]

Office is a South Korean thriller/horror movie. (I made the mistake of not writing people's names down as I was watching and had to rely on wiki posts for name spellings. Apologies if any of the names in my review are incorrect.)

Mr. Kim is an office worker who goes home one day, has dinner with his family, and then beats them all to death with a hammer. He then disappears before the police can find and arrest him. As the police interview his coworkers, it's clear that they aren't being truthful, but what are they hiding?

Mi-rye is an intern in Mr. Kim's section. Of all her coworkers, Mr. Kim was the only one who treated her well. It hurts to think of him as having done something so horrible, and it hurts that she and others in the office are required to continue working as though nothing happened. She's also been explicitly told - threatened, in fact - to not tell the police anything she might know about Mr. Kim and his motives for killing his family. But Mi-rye is being pushed to her limit as well. She's been an intern for 5 months when most interns are given full-time employee status at 3 months, and her coworkers constantly make snide comments behind her back. Although she's afraid of the gift Mr. Kim left her, part of her is drawn to it as well.

Considering that I'd only just attempted to watch another Korean horror movie, Train to Busan, and had to turn it off 30-40 minutes in because I'm a wimp, it maybe wasn't a good idea to give this one a go. But I did, and thankfully its level of gore was usually something I could handle - lots of tension, lots of stabbings (particularly in the last 25 minutes), but relatively tame in terms of what was actually shown on-screen. The scene where Mr. Kim killed his family with a hammer, for example, was off-screen and limited to a few sound-effects.

I really enjoyed the bulk of this movie. This workplace was absolutely horrible. Director Kim Sang-gyu (Mr. Kim's boss) constantly yelled at his employees for having anything resembling lives outside of work. If you didn't come into work on a Saturday, you were clearly a slacker and the reason company profits were down. If he praised employees, it was only as a way to let other employees know that they weren't working as hard as he thought they should be.

I really felt for Mi-rye and wished she could find a better, healthier workplace. She worked her butt off, probably for crap pay, on the off-chance that she might get promoted to a full-time employee position. Then she had to sit there and watch as a shiny new intern started working in her section, showing every sign that she would be given a full-time position before Mi-rye. When Mi-rye cried about it and one of her coworkers caught her, she was told that her problem was that she was trying too hard. All she did was work hard, and her desperation was too palpable. There was really no way for her to succeed - she literally couldn't put in any more hours than she was already putting in, and she couldn't breeze in like she didn't need the job because she did need it.

The movie was at its most exciting during the Mr. Kim flashbacks and the last half hour or so, when all of the section's worst people were called back to work for a final showdown. (I admit to being somewhat relieved that the new intern wasn't one of the ones called back to the building. Although her effortless perfection was annoying, it wasn't her fault that she was repeatedly used as a way to grind Mi-rye down.) The bit with Assistant Manager Hong Ji-sun in the bathroom was particularly good, as was the part with Director Kim Sang-gyu in the car.

I'm...still not sure how I feel about the ending. On the one hand, this workplace absolutely deserved to implode, and it was somewhat satisfying that people who'd been horrible to Mi-rye and Mr. Kim died. On the other hand, the very end felt a bit like the writer was just shrugging off a bunch of murders in order to give the movie's most sympathetic character a happy ending. I was also left wondering if there was supposed to be some sort of supernatural element. Perhaps Mi-rye was possessed by Mr. Kim, who in turn was possessed by the man who killed himself because Mr. Kim wasn't at work to help him, with the knife as the thing that connected all three of them?

I did like this overall, even though the ending made me uncomfortable.

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