Crime Decision to Leave

In the Mood for Murder: A TIFF Review of ‘Decision to Leave’

September 22, 2022Ben MK

With films like Joint Security Area, Oldboy and The Handmaiden to his credit, Park Chan-wook has not only created some of the most memorable, thrilling and artfully-made films ever made, he's also cemented his status as one of the world's most accomplished directors, assuring his place alongside such masters of the craft as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee. Now, with Decision to Leave, Park is once again demonstrating why he’s one of Korean cinema's most influential filmmakers, in this tale of a woman suspected of killing her husband, and the detective who falls in love with her.

Part procedural crime thriller, part romantic drama, the story follows Hae-jun (Park Hae-il), a workaholic police investigator, part-time husband and an incurable insomniac, who also happens to be Busan's youngest inspector. A man who spends virtually all of his waking hours either on stakeouts or at the police station — only seeing his wife on the weekends — Hae-jun has seldom met a case he couldn't crack; and whatever unsolvable crime he has encountered, he still keeps posted up on a bulletin board in his apartment. However, when a suspicious mountain-climbing incident leaves a wealthy, 60-year-old hiker dead and his beautiful, young widow, Seo-rae (Tang Wei), as the accused murderer, Hae-jun may have finally met his match. From their very first meeting in the station's interrogation room, there's an undeniable spark of chemistry that seems too good to be true; and despite his better judgment, Hae-jun quickly begins developing an emotional attachment to his prime suspect. But is she merely really convincing at playing a part, or is there truly something there?

What follows makes for a fitting addition to Park's already impressive filmography, as the multi-award-winning director takes viewers on a journey filled with its fair share of twists and turns, where the final destination is anyone's guess. At its core, however, Decision to Leave is simply a story of two people who find themselves in the right place at the wrong time. And while its juxtaposition of noir mystery and rom-com tragedy is indeed a tricky case to crack, in Park's hands, the result is undoubtedly a masterpiece worth investigating.

Decision to Leave screens under the Special Presentations programme at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 18 min.

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