Squid Game (오징어 게임, 2021) – KDrama Review (드라마 리뷰)

Welcome to the land of Korean cinema.
I finally finished „Squid Game”, so let’s
do this!
This review is spoiler free!
The show stars Lee Jung-jae; Park Hae-soo
who starred in „Prison Playbook”, Jungg
Ho-yeon; O Yeong-soo; Ha Sung-tae who played
in „Beyond Evil” recently; Anupam Trüpáthí;
and a few hundred more.
Literally.
Lee Jung-jae plays someone with an insane
amount of debt.
One day he gets recruited along with 455 other
people to play old child games on an unknown
island.
But there’s a little twist unknown to everybody.
If you’re out of the game, you [email protected]
die right then and there.
But if you survive 6 games, you’ll get a
ridiculous amount of money.
This show has a massive hype around it now,
it’s a huge hit everywhere, so the question
is: does it live up to the hype?
My answer is: eventually yes!
In my opinion „Squid Game” is a show you
have to watch until the very end to truly
appreciate it.
It’s only 9 episodes anyway.
But throughout the first 8 episodes I honestly
had a sort of love/hate relationship with
this show, so let me try to explain all that,
and also how the show completely reshaped
itself for me

eventually.
Before I say anything, I gotta admit, that
„Squid Game” is sort of addictive, a little,
a tad bit, a tiny bit…
Whenever an episode ended I just wanted to
watch the next, no matter what I thought about
that particular episode.
So yeah, I do undertand the hype around it.
I’m pretty sure you already know that a
certain part of this show is a blood-infested
merciless carnage with people dropping dead
left and right and blood splashing everywhere.
But is it that that makes the show?
Well, sure that’s part of it, yeah, I wouldn’t
deny that!
But there’s more.
First off, „Squid Game” is basically impossible
to categorize.
But the more I thought about it, the word
„satire” came to mind.
I think this show is very much satirical.
You can think of it as a thriller, an action/drama,
a survival show, but if you look at the context
it’s very much a satire.
With a hint of black comedy.
A lot of the scenes that should be shocking
are actually quite hilarious in a weird, grotesque
way.
Just think about it, you’re playing a child
game, but if you’re out somebody will [email protected]
shoot you in the head.
I mean, it’s terrible, but also kinda hilarious.
But my favourite thing in this department
was the announcer lady’s voice.
She sounded exactly like the announcers on
the subway, or other public transport vehicles.
She’s pre-recorded, she speaks very formally
and very politely.
And as the bodies are dropping you can hear:
Okay, I made up the last part, but the show
is so over the top in terms of its violence,
that it becomes comical in a really uncomfortable
way, which happens to be right up my alley.
I also think that although „Squid Game”
is not the best Korean show ever, it’s one
of the most important and it all has to do
with its depiction of violence.
If you’re a regular watcher of Korean dramas,
you know that they work under certain limitations.
Even a show like „Mouse” which has a really
twisted story is pretty safe in terms of its
visual presentation.
I mean, in most Korean shows when somebody
picks up a knife, the blade gets censored
out, you know?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely
not advocating violence, I’m just saying
that art shouldn’t be compromised.
And a lot of dramas, like „Mouse” and
„Beyond Evil” for example really could’ve
benefitted from the kind of visual freedom
that „Squid Game” has.
And I mean, when it comes to movies, they
don’t hold back at all, think of „I Saw
The Devil” or „Asura: City Of Madness”,
or „Monster”.
I know TV is a different medium but Korea,
you have to figure this oneout.
But just think about it, if „Squid Game”
didn’t came out on Netflix I think we’d
have a very different show now.
And I’m glad we have this one.
I also really appreciated that the show didn’t
only try to rely on the game bits and the
creators tried to create as many actual characters
as they could.
Obviously you can’t create 450 well fleshed
out characters, but, I mean…
But seriously it was great to see that the
show actually set up the main character before
jumping into the whole thing.
In that sense episode 2 might be make or break
for some, because in episode one you get a
really good taste of ths whole game-playing
thing, but episode two is all about building
character.
Not just the main one, but 5 or 6 others.
And it may come across as boring to some,
but I thought it was very important.
It made us understand how people could end
up participating in a crazy thing like this
better.
Speaking of characters and the main character,
I saw Lee Jung-jae in quite a lot of movies,
he had a pretty risky role in the movie „Method”
for example,and I always liked his acting,
but this is easily his best performance I’ve
seen.
Usually he plays really strong characters
who carry themselves with pride and here he’s
the complete opposite.
So much so that I didn’t even recognize
him at first.
This is his most vulnerable role I’ve seen,
he has a dramatic side I’ve never seen before,
not only was it refreshing, it was really
good!
Also, whoever designed the sets deserves a
massive praise.
The games take place at a huge facility, with
lots of different rooms for the different
games, hallways, VIP rooms, and they were
incredibly detailed and stylish.
„Squid Game” also juggles many themes
along the way, selfishness, greed, desperation,
the divide between rich and poor, the fact
that the everyday man is basically disposable,
the overall nature of society…
And probably a thousand more that I can’t
think of now.
It’s one of the show’s strengths, but
also one of its weaknesses.
As I was watching „Squid Game” I felt
like the show doesn’t really commit itself
to any of its themes, it introduces them and
kinda leaves them hanging.
(And just like show, this review is supposed
to be watched ’till the very end, so don’t
kill me yet!).
In this sense episode 7 was my absolute least
favourite.
It really tried to show us the divide between
the rich and poor but it was all done in such
a clichéd way, with such annoying characters
that I pretty much hated it!
Not the whole episode, but a huge chunk of
it.
I know why it’s there, I just wish it was
handled a little differently.
„Squid Game” also has a lot of influences
from other movies, „The Hunger Games”…
„Battle Royal”, or a little known movie
called „The Belko Experiment”, or many
other survival movies.
With the exception that here the participants
are not killing each other.
Or are they?
And, strangely enough, a movie like „Hostel”
is also not far away from the core theme of
„Squid Game”.
And in terms of its visual style, a lot of
times I had serious Wes Anderson vibes.
There’s a hallway the characters have to
go through to get to wherever the next game
will take place, and the way the hall thing
is designed and filmed just screams Wes Anderson.
And not only that, but all the symmetrical
shots too.
Which strangely almost disappear from the
show after a while.
I also found the characters boring in the
long run.
No, boring isn’t the right word.
I just didn’t really care for anyone, you
now.
Especially after I realized that the outcome
of each game is pretty predictable, it was
like „Okay, that person ,that person and
that person will live, the rest all just:
Granted, with so many people it’s impossible
to truly give focus to each sort-of important
character, but just overall I didn’t really
find anyone interesting, not even the main
character.
Especially after I’ve heard about his gambling
past, I was like „Why should I care for
this character?”.
But what bothered me the most was the behaviour
of the participants.
I don’t know about you but in a situation
like this I’d be freaking the [email protected] out 24/7.
But these people seem to be pretty okay.
I mean sure, they’re nervous during the
games, some people do break here and there,
but for the most part they seemed pretty fine
to me.
At least regarding the seriousness of the
whole situation.
And I think this is a huge missed opportunity.
Also,there are so many plot conveniences in
terms of the outcome of the games, that it
made me wonder whether the organizers are
prepared for every kind of scenario?
Honestly a lot of times it just seemed like
things happen the way they do because the
writer wants it to happen that way.
I mean, that’s the case with every script,
but it was really transparent here.
Oh, and Gong Yoo only has a cameo in the show!
He appears in episode one, and I was like
„Gong Yoo, that’s Gong Yoo, this show
just got a lot better!”
And then he’s off.
Thanks a lot!
But then…
There’s a character called the Front Man.
Oh yeah, a lot of people work at this place,
they all wear the same stupid outfit with
their faces covered and stuff.
But the Front Man has a different outfit.
And even though the staff members all speak
with their voices distorted, I recognised
the Front Man’s voice.
I was like „That sounds like that very famous
actor that I really like”.
And it sure was him.
That was cool.
So up until the last episode I was really
on and off with „Squid Game”.
While also being kind of addicted to it.
But then episode 9 felt very different right
from the beginning.
That’s when the last game happens and I
absolutely loved it.
But there’s so much more in that episode.
Basically everything that was lacking for
me in the show came together seamlessly in
the last episode.
That episode is surprisingly intimate.
When I say intimate, I mean it’s very personal.
And in a weird way truly universal.
The first half of it really made me question
whether we as individuals are running after
the right things or not.
’Cause we’re all running after something,
I mean we wanna achieve something.
The question is what.
Because once you’ve achieved it, there’s
gonna be a road behind you and the real question
is whether that road was worth it or not?
Can you look in the mirror or not?
And then there’s also a twist, and that’s
what really made the show for me.
Looking back on the whole thing after that
there are so many things that are given a
different meaning.
So I suggest you really pay attention while
watching this show, because the reward is
huge.
And that’s when I realized that most of
my problems with the show were intentionally
avioded, being saved for the last episode.
It was so satisfying!
„Squid Game”s is a show that knows how
to end.
The last episode made everything work for
me, it deepened the whole show so much.
That’s when I realized that all of the little
themes the show was juggling throughout are
part of a much bigger picture, and it was
actually that bigger picture the writer committed
himself to.
Really smart!
So, if you’re into a thought-provoking,
sometimes grotesquely funny, bloody carnage
which might leave you thinking about a lot
of things, yeah, go watch „Squid Game”.
Since it doesn’t hold back on its visuals,
this might be shocking to some people, so
be careful if you can’t handle it.
My problems with the characters still stand,
I still don’t like epsiode 7, but „Squid
Game” stuck a perfect landing and because
of that I’m gonna give it 90%.
Like I said, not the best Korean show ever,
but it’s really good, and really important.
I really hope that this opens a lot of doors
for future show creators in Korea, so… unleash
the writers and directors!

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