When I first heard that Park Chan-wook was releasing a new movie, my anticipation skyrocketed through the roof! It quickly became one of my most anticipated movies of 2022. Then, when I had a chance to see it (later than I initially wanted to), I jumped at the chance and was absolutely taken aback. Decision to Leave is an oddly sexy thriller that, for lack of a better explanation, A Clockwork Orange-es its audience, making us take in every frame of what is happening and absorb the chef’s kiss of cinema that unfolds. It is an actual crime how this wasn’t nominated for Best International Picture at the 2023 Oscars as it was my personal choice to take home the statue, but that is a completely other conversation. What Park Chan-wook manages to do with Decision to Leave is create a love story entranced in a murder mystery, with a side plot of gang violence and murder, that has anything anyone could want from this genre of film and is rather relentless with its storytelling and gorgeous cinematography.
The film is focused on a married detective, Hae-joon (Park Hae-il), as he is investigating a gang-related murder with his partner. As they’re investigating these murders, tasked by their captain to solve, they’re given another case of an expert climber somehow falling off a cliff and plummeting to his death. This is how Hae-joon meets Seo-rae (Tang Wei), the wife of the fallen man. At first, she is a suspect due to the fact that her now-deceased husband was an expert climber and even created videos showing how he climbed the mountains for either expert or novice climbers meaning an accident like the one he had is certainly questionable. As things start to unfold, it is revealed that her husband was certainly not a “good” man by any means and she slowly becomes the number one suspect. However, Hae-joon starts to develop some passionate and strong feelings for Seo-rae, and their intimacy leaves some blinders to the investigation.
Decision to Leave has some of the most beautiful cinematography to be put on film. There is no denying that this film is simply a work of art. That is not to say that other films aren’t also art, but Decision to Leave is like watching a near two and a half hours of the world’s greatest artists create their masterpieces. It is just simply gorgeous with its cinematography, capturing the richness of the wilderness, the darkn tones of the story, and the rich accompaniment of love and lust expressed by intimate settings that in fact do not exist. This is also thanks to the wonderful creation by Park Chan-wook’s direction. There are moments where Hae-joon and Seo-rae are having conversations over the phone, and instead of just boringly showing two people talking on a phone, Park decides to insert the characters to talk to one another face-to-face even though it’s a phone call, creating that extra level of intimacy and exploration of this passionate thriller.
Aside from the richness provided by masterful direction and cinematography, all would be lost if Park Hae-il (Memories of Murder) and Tang Wei (Long Day’s Journey into Night) didn’t have some of the most exquisite chemistry. Their chemistry is simply sublime and the tension between these characters could simply be cut with a knife. Singularly, they are also delivering incredible performances, with Park Hae-il being determined to solve both his cases as his personal philosophy will not let him move on until a murder is solved, and Tang Wei as the widowed woman who has a lot of mystery she continues to hide behind her curtain.
I had the distinct pleasure of receiving a copy of Decision to Leave from MUBI so I could revisit the film whenever I wanted without the need of an internet connection. While it is streaming exclusively on their service. Aside from the Blu-ray not being at the mercy of one’s internet connection speed and file compression, streaming at anything lower than 1080p, it is loaded with special features that make Decision to Leave an absolute must-have for anyone who loves the film and/or Park Chan-wook.
There is so much to unpack with the Blu-ray itself, but, to start, the packaging of the disk itself is surely going to irritate the ever-loving hell out of anyone with OCD for their shelf as it ditches those generic blue cases and opts for a case that is more in line with a Criterion product while not being one either. Even with the design of the slip and inner artwork, it feels like a Criterion, the most noticeable difference being when one opens it and the signature booklet included with Criterion releases is noticeably missing.
Moreover though, when looking at a 2023 physical release, seeing *six* special features is nothing short of jaw-dropping. More and more studios are forgoing features typically, or only boasting things like a commentary track or a short behind-the-scenes featurette and then some sizzle reels, but to be gifted with a slew of features is an absolute treat.
Our features include an introduction with Park Hae-il and Tang Wei, which is an option to play when you select the feature itself. (Thank you for bringing this back! If anyone remembers in the mid 2000s/early 2010s physical releases with deleted scenes would, on occasion, let you watch the feature and select if you wanted to watch the deleted scenes where they were explicitly cut from. The example that comes to mind is early Simpsons seasons on DVD. It was great!) The other features are the “New York Film Festival Talks: Park Chan-wook,” “Interview with Park Chan-wook,” “Moments of Decision to Leave” the behind the scenes featurette, behind-the-scenes in Cannes, and a VFX reel. These features are essentially creating a film festival for the at home viewing experience, it truly is a special release for a masterful and beautiful film.
Decision to Leave Special Features:
- Introduction with Park Hae-il and Tang Wei
- Interview with dierctor Park Chan-wook
- Moments of Decision to Leave – featurette
- Behind the scenes in Cannes
- Park Chan-wook’s movie Going Memories
- Optional English and English SDH subtitles for the main feature
Available on Blu-ray and DVD February 14th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official MUBI Decision to Leave webpage.
Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming
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