is no reason a place of business should have to be a zone of self-esteem
coddling currently termed a “safe place.” After all, grown-ups are working
there. However, the Cheil Corporation is a whole different matter. There is
nothing safe about this corporate headquarters, as proved by the rising body
count. One hard-working but unpopular intern is at the center of the lethal
mystery in Hong Won-chan’s Office (trailer here), which screens as
the opening night selection of the 2015 New York Korean Film Festival.
fateful night, Kim Byeong-gook came home, bludgeoned his family to death with a
hammer and then returned to the office, where he apparently disappeared. CCTV
has him entering but not exiting, so presumably he is haunting the building,
like a salaryman Phantom of the Opera. This rather unnerves his superiors at
Cheil, who treated him like dirt. Frankly, Lee Mi-rae was the only employee he
was on friendly terms with, except she is not really an employee. She is still an
intern, desperate to be hired full-time.
being an earnest plugger like Kim, she just does not fit in with Cheil’s cutthroat
corporate culture. Still, they ought to be a little nicer, considering the
embarrassing information they are counting on her to keep secret from the
investigating detective, Choi Jung-hoon. The subsequent dubious suicide of the
office suck-up tipped for promotion will also presumably leave them greatly
short-staffed. However, the sales director, Kim Sang-gyu seems to think he can
make up ground through threats and emotional abuse.
times, it is unclear whether Office (absolutely
not to be confused with the Johnnie To musical of the same title) is meant to
be a straight-up murder-mystery thriller or an unusually subtle horror film,
but that ambiguity is actually pretty cool. The Jones & Sunn firm of To’s
film might be problematic in some ways, but it has nothing on Chiel. Frankly,
it makes both Office sitcoms and Mike
Judge’s Office Space looks like lyric
odes to cubicle life.
best known to American audiences for her youthful turn in The Host and her adult breakout work in Snowpiercer, Ko Ah-sung is pretty darn incredible as the socially
awkward Lee. We feel for her deeply, even as we suspect there is something
funny about her. Likewise, Bae Sung-woo humanizes the ostensibly monstrous Kim
Byeong-gook, just like Erik the Phantom. Ryoo Hyoun-kyoung also loses her composure
rather spectacularly as shrewish but increasingly rattled Assistant Manager
Hong Ji-sun, while the always reliable Park Sung-woong rock-solidly anchors the
film as the hardnosed Det. Choi.
Whether you see it coming or not, Office is still a slick and gripping
dark thriller. Hong and cinematographer Park Yong-soo capture the ominous look
of florescent lighting and the cold, severe ambience of bullpen style cubes. Yet,
with its one central setting and assortment of multiple suspects and potential
victims, it is also refreshingly old school in its approach, like a white
collar Deathtrap. Highly recommended
for fans of suspense-related genres, Office
screens this Friday (11/6) at the Museum of the Moving Image, as part of
the 2015 NYKFF.
Labels: Ko Ah-sung, Korean Cinema, NYKFF '15