Squid Game’ is a wonderfully violent Netflix binge-ride from hell.
The brilliant idea of this survival K-drama shocks, but the razor-sharp script and engaging ensemble cast keep viewers interested.
Avoiding reading or viewing anything connected to Netflix’s most current sensation Squid Game is the best approach to get started watching the smash-hit programme. If you’ve come to this page, it’s a little ironic, but don’t worry: this will be a spoiler-free review.
Squid Game, which Netflix has dubbed “perhaps their biggest programme ever,” has blown the minds of millions of fans across the world since its debut. The internet is presently a minefield of spoilers; there are memes, conspiracy theories, rants, and ecstatic conversations about the Korean programme on every available online forum, and rightfully so. The nine episodes, written and directed by Hwang Dong-Hyuk, manage to leave viewers terrified but involved in the programme, owing to the show’s razor-sharp script and riveting performances by its ensemble cast.
In a nutshell, what is the concept of the survival K-drama? We follow 456 indebted competitors as they play in a variety of kid’s games for a huge financial reward. The participants, on the other hand, quickly learn that the stakes are high, and that when the organisers say “elimination,” they mean it literally.
Squid Game opens with introducing us to some of the competitors, including Seong Gi-Hun (Lee Jung-Jae), a compulsive gambler and driver; Cho Sang-Woo (Park Hae-Soo), a savvy investment manager who is presently sought for fraud; and North Korean defector Kang Sae-Byeok (Jung Ho-Yeon). The three of them, as well as numerous other characters, notably Abdul Ali, a Pakistani foreign worker (played by Anupam Tripathi), are in dire financial straits, and the game’s cruel, deceptive rules do nothing to assist. It’s a comfort that the show’s subplot, which is led by detective Hwang Jun-Ho (Wi Ha-Joon), is also well-written, with plenty of suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat moments.
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For a few of desperate participants, the idea of being out in the real world is more terrifying than the dismal, violent environment they’ve chosen to enter. One participant says, “I’d rather stay here and die trying than perish out there like a dog,” in a scene that reveals how harsh life has been to them. It doesn’t take long for them to turn on each other, and their overnight descent into violence and chaos is one of the most terrifying sequences in the film… and there are a lot of them.
There’s brutal violence, numerous nerve-wracking moments, and some really scary disclosures and betrayals, but it’s the participants’ rare moments of friendship that elevate Squid Game above the typical survival show pattern. One can’t help but root for them as they strive to work as a team through a gruelling game, or when one participant secretly assists another with his assignment thanks to a hilarious yet life-saving hack.
While Lee Jung-Jae is excellent as the simple-minded yet helpful Gi-Hun, Park Hae-Soo as the cunning Sang-Woo is fascinating.
What might have been a generic part with grey shades is brought to life by the actor, who creates a character you can’t help but sympathise with while also being upset with.
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Another standout performance comes from Ho-Yeon, who is making her K-drama debut. If her portrayal of the mysterious Kang Sae-Byeok is any indication, a star has been born. The model-turned-actor is incredibly believable and seamlessly fits into her character. Her interactions with another participant Ji-yeong (Lee Yoo-mi) provide some unexpected emotional depth to the drama.
The technical components of such a strange and cruel idea must be top-notch in order for it to succeed, and Squid Game pulls out all the stops. The eerie bright pinks, greens, and yellows that decorate the halls and stairs serve as a smart and comical façade for the facility’s horrors. The show’s tone is elevated by the cinematography, which is continuously disturbing and verging on voyeuristic.
The background music contributes to the overall eerie atmosphere, yet it never attempts to overpower the proceedings. Because all of these components work so well together, the show never needs to rely on cheap jump scares; there’s enough skill here to frighten audiences.
Although there has been a surge in worldwide interest in Korean dramas in recent years, Squid Game manages to lift the ante in spectacular manner, and attract to people who have never seen the genre before. It ranks right up there with Netflix’s previous big hit Kingdom as one of the greatest original Korean programmes.
Let’s hope a second season is ordered as soon as possible… but please don’t bring back that awful big doll. If you’re in the know, you’re in the know.
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Squid Game is currently available to watch on Netflix.
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SQUID GAME (2021) S01 EP (01-09) 720p