4.5 out of 5 stars
Whether it's the best film of 2019 Parasite about wealth disparity, the tear-jerking zombie movie Train to Busan, about a father’s love for his daughter, or the violent revenge thriller Old Boy, South Korea has emerged as one of the world's great creative forces. Netflix has taken notice and placed its bottomless coffers behind the new South Korean produced series Squid Game. In the days following its international release, the thriller has become the most-watched and talked about show in the world.
Squid Game is the unflinchingly brutal story of a mysterious group who recruits the financially vulnerable of society to play a series of kid games for an absurd pot of money to the death. Our protagonist, Seong Gi-Hun (Lee Jung-jae) is a divorced dad with a life-dominating gambling addiction. His life choices have wreaked havoc on every relationship he holds dear in life. Seong voluntarily agrees to play kid games such as Red-Light, Green-Light in hopes of digging his way out of financial trouble and restoring his relationship with his ten-year-old daughter. In a horrifying turn of events, Red-Light, Green-Light becomes deadly when contestants, and the audience, realise those who fail to complete the games or break the rules are “eliminated.”
Netflix's latest series has been compared tofilms like Battle Royal, Hunger Games, and A Clockwork Orange. Though these share a similar pedigree, there’s much more going on beneath the surface than simple kid games. On one level, it is a story of financial disparity and exploitation. On another level, a story about the value of human life, our reason for living and money’s inability to enlighten the dark corners of the soul.
Director Hwang Dong-Hyuk’s violently tense thriller sinks its hooks deep in episode one and never lets go. Each episode keeps the audience on its toes, unveiling unexpected twists and turns. All the while, it gives detailed attention to the backgrounds and motivations of why they would risk their lives for a pile of cash. As the series progresses, deep relationships are formed in the most unlikely of people. Even with the language barrier and subtitles, it is impossible not to develop significant attachments to these characters. What makes every “elimination” so tragically heart-breaking is how superbly fleshed out and realized these characters and relationships really are. Suid Game binge-entertainment at its absolute finest.
The games serve as a pressure-cooker for each contestant. Condensing life down to a simple game forces each person's true character, motivations and values to slowly rise to the surface as the game progresses. Some we would expect to be noble are not. Others are expected to be cowards are self-sacrificing. Along the way, the audience is forced to ask what matters most in life. Specifically, what drives our desire to live. These are questions to stick with the viewer long after the highly bloody proceedings are over. It is a violent, adult, expertly crafted, philosophically thought-provoking series that should leave most soul searching after the credits are over.
This is not an understatement to say that Squid Game is a cultural phenomenon that has touched a deep nerve worldwide. Beneath the bloody games are profound questions, ancient philosophers and theologians have wrestled with for centuries, namely, the meaning of life? What is the point of effort, risk, loss, suffering at the end of the day? Can money really cure the woes deep in the soul?
Reel Dialogue: What is the point of effort, risk, loss, suffering at the end of the day?
John 10:10, “I have come to give them life, life abundant.”
These are profound questions that Jesus came to answer. In Jesus, we can know where we come from, why we are here, how we are meant to live and where we go when it is all over. Without answers to questions like these, money does seem like the answer. Yet, Squid Game proves, once you have more money than you could ever dream of spending, you are actually more empty than you ever could have imagined. Jesus offers a better way.