Poor to mediocre movies are abound these days, good flicks come and go frequently without much fanfare, and great films can be found with a little bit of grit and effort on your part. Modern classics and definitively excellent films are elusive, though, only trickling out maybe once a year (2018 was an embarrassment of riches), if at all. Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is one such film.
Parasite opens on the near slums of South Korea as the Kim family perpetually seeks one-off jobs to survive through their desolate unemployment streak. Fortune finally finds its way to them after Ki-woo, their son, is passed on a job by his friend to tutor for the Parks, a rich family on the other side of town. Ki-woo gets along swimmingly despite his lack of a college education, and when asked for recommendations for another tutor by the Park’s matriarch, manages to sneak his sister, Ki-jeong, into the mix as well. Eventually, the rest of the Kims are able to con themselves into jobs at the Parks’ household and profit off their hosts’ extensive wealth.
Breezing by with the fiendish joys of a clever heist, that’s only the first chunk of Parasite. Song Kahng-ho, Jang Hye-jin, Choi Woo-shik, and especially Park So-dam are impeccable as the Kim family, who in all their relatable desperation looking for work, bring a sly fondness as they start scheming against their newfound employers. Joon-ho and Han Jin-won’s screenplay (in addition to the former’s understated directing job) is excellent with perfect pacing that beautifully flows from scene to scene, and once he’s done laying all his cards on the table, Joon-ho springs a set of vicious narrative traps that escalate into a thrilling, almost totally new film whose every minute is better than the last.
Whether it’s a casual passing remark, joke, or calculatingly placed visual, every single detail gradually coalesces into an immaculately tight piece about the relational tension between society’s haves and have-nots. It’s flooring not just how much, but how synergistically and open to interpretation Joon-ho crafts his film, particularly in his impressive ongoing visual motif contrasting the power disparity between high and low height levels. As well as being an effortlessly humorous, sinisterly horrifying thrill ride, there are heaps of love and care put into Parasite, and it shows on every bit of inch of screen as it plays.