Review | Decision to Leave | 2022
Park Chan-wook's Decision to Leave begins in a deceptively simple manner - a police procedural in which a detective named Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) investigates the death of a local mountain climber that on the surface appears to be either an accident or suicide. But he soon begins to suspect that his wife, Seo-rae (Tang Wei) might be more more involved in his death than she's letting on.
Decision to Leave is a twisty thriller that consistently undercuts audience expectations, its answers constantly defying convention and offering new surprises just when we think we have everything figured out. But what makes the film so remarkable isn't the twists and turns, or indeed the mystery itself, it's the tale of romantic obsession at its core. There's something almost Hitchcockian about what Park achieves here as his protagonists descend into a web of passion, infatuation, and delusion that will ultimately destroy them both.
It will likely draw many comparisons to Hitchcock's masterpiece, Vertigo, but I was also reminded of David Fincher's Zodiac in its depiction of how obsession with a crime can leave lives shattered in its wake. There's a lot of plot going on here, but don't worry if you don't pick up every detail on first viewing, Decision to Leave is designed to be disorienting, as its protagonist is constantly forced to reevaluate his own reality, desperately looking for new clues to down rabbit whole after rabbit hole where they may or may not exist.
As the film progresses, it gets more and more beautiful as it transitions from police procedural to spooky, fog-shrouded gothic romance. Park and Tang make for fantastic leads, but Tang is a standout as the femme fatale in this heated neo-noir. Come for the mystery, but stay for Park's dazzlingly delirious web of obsession and lies that paints a haunting portrait of a policeman's singular, self-destructive focus on something unsolvable that ultimately has nothing to do with the crime.