Odd little intricacies and the maddening spiral of mystery are a firm staple for Park Chan-wook. Perhaps Decision to Leave is the best way to make such a claim to said longevity, especially after the explosive familiarity yet blinkered feeling Oldboy presents. Still, a crisp dive into the policing and detective works in initially sterile conditions is one way to learn about his craft and his storytelling advances. Those latter strengths were always known, the creative spark flickers on once more for this feature. Decision to Leave plays with its food, by that it toys with the parts which can come together to blow the mind and never make its move, always coaxing some feeling before letting it live on. By this, it becomes quite the beautiful exploration of landscape and individual doubt.
Because at the heart of Decision to Leave is a tough task which relates to such a choice. How can it be that emotions are suspended from time to time? They never truly are, are they? Park Chan-wook guides these characters, the extreme close-ups of investigation like an enhanced and modern-day L.A. Noire as keen to accept its motivations. Park Hae-il’s interpretation of a seasoned detective is to play around with the fabric which makes all these popular mysteries tick. He is slower than the rest and presents this as a way to toy with the audience and the red herrings at present. From word go there they are, the little intricacies, the idle dinner table conversations, all bubbling under a living, breathing city which feels organic and well-explored.
Deep and moved distractions, the interplay between sex, love and work all comes together as the mind refuses to turn itself off. Hot Fuzz played around with that, with lightness and heart to it of course, but it was still the workaholic idealism which presents itself in the coldest and streamlined minds. Decision to Leave has a heaping of that present through Hae-joon (Park Hae-il), and it is in the marital bed, within the home with people he loves, where doubt begins to fester. Much of that is commonplace for dramatics, the tension between two leads to the influence of outside sources, but with firm dialogue and a natural progression, it is clear to see the effect but not the impact and long-form outcome. All we can hope for is the reaction in the immediate, here and now, as we are driven by passion.
Unsettling those thoughts may be, and well-considered as they are, an open book is an unfinished one. Decision to Leave gets right to the core of misplaced passion and the wake-up call often needed to pull us from our work or our beliefs. There are times when this is shaken, where it becomes clear something new is on the horizon to deal with, whether it is doubt or desire. Decision to Leave has both in ample supply and makes it clear this is a completely natural sin. Even in the relatability of people chasing dreams they cannot reach is an assured and interesting style, the quick flickers and zooms Park Chan-wook creates here to do well to craft an interesting drama which tends to take its usual structures and turn them toward sharp performances and those feral desires of the heart.