After a failed business venture, the debt-ridden chauffeur Seong Gi Hun lives his life gambling away the money he mooches off his elderly mother while failing to provide for her and his estranged daughter. When his life finally hits rock bottom, he receives an irresistible offer promising him a ₩45.6 billion prize in exchange for winning traditional Korean children's games against 455 other players, among them his childhood friend Cho Sang Woo. Commencing the games, the participants soon learn of the deadly consequences that come with losing. (Source: MyDramaList) Edit Translation
Where to Watch Squid Game
Cast & Credits
Strong Start, Weak FinishContrary to the popular opinion here, I really appreciated the extensive backstories of the characters. It effectively provided justifications for why the participants would engage in such an insane project, which is quite rare for the typical Death Game film (usually, the participants are lazily thrown into their circumstances due to some metaphysical element within the story or deus ex machina reasoning). I also enjoyed the softer social commentaries in the beginning of the film and the fairly realistic and reasonable depictions of the main characters. That is, none of the characters are overly virtuous or exceptionally talented, and they all act or respond appropriately to the situation at hand; I can see these characters in my day-to-day life. Finally, the cinematography and acting (of the main characters) were masterfully executed.
Where the series started to go seriously wrong was in the final few episodes when the filmmakers decided to use caricatures for their characters as if they were holding a contest to use as many tropes as possible to fit the bill of the caricature in question; at some point, I was not sure whether the series abruptly became a satire. Not only were these caricatures agonizing to watch, but the decisive shift in narrative presentation really killed the immersive experience evoked by the previous episodes. Additionally, the moral justifications for why the mastermind started the entire project were very banal, forced, and unconvincing; the creativity of the "midnight bet," from which he grounds his perspective, is what you would expect from a #SocialExperiment Youtube video, not a Netflix produced K-drama.
All in all, for someone who does not enjoy the typical Death game flick, I found the series very entertaining and well made within the category, but beyond this, it is forgettable. Although the cast, cinematography and music scores were appropriate and exceptional, there was, unfortunately, nothing noteworthy about the screenplay and directing.
Winner Takes AllSquid game is a South Korean children’s playground game that was popular back in the 1980s. It is similar to hopscotch but with a more expansive playing area and team-based approach. It forms the basis of the game setting that is featured in Squid Game.
The drama is written and directed by the award-winning Hwang Dong Hyuk, known for critically acclaimed films The Fortress and Silenced. Jung Jae Il, who is known for composing the score for Okja and Parasite, serves as the music director. Produced by Siren Pictures exclusively for Netflix, this is a pre-produced drama with all 9 episodes released worldwide on 17 September 2021. It is given an R-18 rating and contains sexual references, nudity, and violence. Strobing effects present in certain episodes (especially episode 4) may cause discomfort for photosensitive viewers. Other trigger warnings include scenes of violent deaths, as well as gratuitous blood and gore.
Premise and Plot
456 participants competing in a “Hunger Games meets Battle Royale” series of challenges modelled after traditional South Korean children’s playground games for a chance of winning the jackpot of 40 million won, rising up to 45.6 million won with the elimination of all other participants right to the last person standing.As for who the organisers are and the reason for the competition, all shall be revealed as the story unfolds..
The story revolves around the points of view of a number of characters who share one thing in common - they are in serious need of cold hard cash to resolve their respective predicaments. Central to the core narrative is the main character and protagonist, Seong Gi Hoon, a gambling addict down on his luck who is facing debt problems and child-custody issues, as well as dealing with his mother’s deteriorating health.
What I Liked
As expected of a Netflix original series, I enjoyed the production quality and values, unique set designs and costumes, exceptional cinematography especially during some of the stunning choreographed action sequences and the game or challenge settings.
The cast is outstanding, comprising veterans in Lee Jung Jae, Park Hae Soo, Heo Sung Tae, Kim Joo Ryung and Oh Young Soo, among others. The newcomer Jung Ho Yeon gives a decent debut performance complete with the North Korean accent. I was pleasantly surprised to see brief appearances by Gong Yoo and Lee Byung Hun. Even with limited screen time, their charisma absolutely shines through to light up the production.
The edge-of-the seat thrills and suspense plays out in a riveting pace. This drama is well worth the binge because it is as captivating as it is addictive to consume in a single seating. Moments of extreme tension are aplenty along with the heart-wrenching emotions which are deftly interspersed amidst the high-octane action sequences throughout. I particularly enjoyed the epic final showdown between the finalists in the concluding arc of the drama.
The music score composed by Jung Jae Il is sublime, along with classic compositions used courtesy of the Budapest Scoring Orchestra and Big Band. They include The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II, Trumpet Concerto in E Flat Major by Franz Joseph Haydn and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. A cover of Bart Howard’s Fly Me to the Moon also plays a major part as the BGM for one of the more stunning game sequences in episode 1.
What Could’ve Been Better
As much as I enjoyed the drama, I thought 9 episodes were somewhat overlong. 6 or 7 episodes would have made the storytelling more compact and compelling. A significant portion of the drama was taken up by the story-building of the main character as well as four other major supporting characters. I appreciated the respective backstories of tragic circumstances and such but those components impacted on the pacing of the more engaging aspects a little bit. In addition, the final episode did feel dragged out unnecessarily.
The characterization of the ML Seong Gi Hoon (no 456) wasn’t convincing to me, although I accepted it as part of the drama’s depiction of “character growth”. How an irresponsibly hopeless father, unfilial son, and washed-out gambling addict suddenly developed a moral compass, sense of righteousness, and leadership traits came across as somewhat unrealistic.
Notwithstanding the qualms I had and as long as expectations are tempered, Squid Game represents great entertainment value complete with a sufficient dose of suspense, thrills and excitement in a nicely packaged production that makes it the perfect binge-worthy viewing experience for an evening at home.