Bong Joon-Ho Breaks Down That 'Mission Impossible' Scene In 'Parasite'

Parasite defies categorization. It's a tar-black comedy, a razor-sharp social satire, a twisted fairy tale, and a Hitchockian suspense thriller all at once. Director Bong Joon-ho resides in a genre all to his own, and hasn't pointed to specific influences when making his Palme D'Or winner, which was inspired by his own experiences as a personal tutor to a rich family. But there is one sequence that Bong said was influenced by a very specific franchise: Mission: Impossible.

"This is some kind of nerdy family version of Mission: Impossible," Bong says in the Anatomy of a Scene video with the New York Times, referring to the '60s TV series he watched growing up (not to mention the blockbuster film franchise). It's fascinating to see how Bong pulls off this high-stakes heist in the Parasite scene breakdown, but the best takeaway from the video below is that the Korean auteur knows who Ansel Elgort is.

Parasite Scene Breakdown

One of the appeals of Parasite is that despite being an arthouse international film that digs into deeper themes about social warfare, it is a blast to watch. This is thanks to the film's riotous humor and its zippy heist scenes, which have you rooting for a poor family worming their way into the lives of a rich family. One such scene, which is featured in New York Times' series Anatomy of a Scene, is referred to as the movie's Mission: Impossible scene by Bong Joon-ho, who explains how he pulled off the high-thrills sequence.

"I intentionally shoot those shots very quickly, [with] some spontaneous reactions and sudden small improvised [moments]," Bong says in the video. "Some things happen very naturally in the camera. That kind of momentary feeling is very important."

Another layer to this sequence is the moment when the son (Choi Woo-shik) instructs his father (Bong's longtime collaborator Song Kang-ho) how to act out the script they had written. "When they rehearse it looks like filmmaking," Bong remarks. "It's a humorous scene. In reality, the father is played by one of the most renowned actors and the son is an up and coming actor. It's as if Ansel Elgort is teaching acting to Al Pacino. It's funnier for the Korean audience."

Bong has a habit of sprinkling culturally specific jokes or references through his films — another instance happens in Okja when a line of Korean dialogue is deliberately mistranslated in a way that plays off as a joke for Korean audiences, but flies over the head of American audiences. It's refreshing that Bong doesn't try to cater to Hollywood, which is probably what helps makes Parasite so damn good.

Parasite is now playing in select U.S. theaters.

Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity. Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist, to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. The Kims provide "indispensable" luxury services while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household. When a parasitic interloper threatens the Kims' newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks. By turns darkly hilarious and heart-wrenching, PARASITE showcases a modern master at the top of his game.