Squid Game (2021)

I’d been seeing a whole lot of hype about the Korean mini-series Squid Game on Netflix for a while before I took the time to watch it for myself. I hadn’t been dedicating much if any, time to watching movies or television shows for what turned out to be quite an extended interval. I have to say that Squid Game was a damn fine way to return to watching a series.
While the overall narrative isn’t entirely original, its various components are assembled in such a way as to create a rather unique and exciting experience. Hugely reminiscent of Battle Royale, Squid Game incorporates elements familiar to fans of The Running Man, Tzameti, Series 7: The Contenders, and the old BBC series The Prisoner. While mingling all of these diverse elements–as well as other sources of inspiration–it transforms itself into a captivating and largely unpredictable story that retained this particular viewer’s attention throughout.
Primarily following Lee Jung-jae’s Seong Gi-hun, we’re introduced to a man living a life of regret and poor decisions but who is, at heart, a genuinely decent guy. It would be easy to suggest he’s a degenerate gambler and a deadbeat father, but there’s a whole lot more to him than that, and it’s quite clear that there’s a stubborn streak of optimism and desire to do right that motivates him along the way.
When presented with a mysterious opportunity to potentially change the course of his life and keep his daughter nearby, Seong Gi-hun accepts a fateful invitation that will certainly change his life forever, assuming he manages to survive.
Along with 455 other people, including his childhood friend Cho Sang-woo (played by Park Hae-soo) and a pickpocket he only briefly encountered, Kang Sae-byeok (played by Jung Hoyeon), the numbered contestants wake up in a large auditorium, wearing jumpsuits. The collection of mostly strangers are greeted by armed and masked workers who carry out the commands of the even more mysterious Frontman.
Led to the first game of the challenge, the sinister reality of their situation becomes terrifyingly real and the remaining contestants must determine whether the potential reward outweighs the all-too-real risks associated with the games they’re expected to play.
It’s all but impossible to write anything more than this without giving away spoilers. I don’t know if I should even worry about that, knowing how popular the series happens to be, but I’m sure there are plenty of people still sitting on the fence and uncertain whether they should watch the series, and I can’t help but say that they’d be making a mistake by not settling in for the series.
When the sixth episode concludes, only the most inhuman of us would be left unmoved and devastated. Consider that a fair warning, that you’re going to hurt while you’re watching the events unfold, helpless to do or say anything to change what we’re witnessing.
The only thing I found disappointing in the whole nine-episode series was the final moments of that concluding episode, and that wasn’t enough of a disappointment to sour how I feel about the show as a whole.
As a commentary on the predatory and toxic aspects of capitalist systems, Squid Game succeeds where plenty of other movies and series have failed to elevate the conversation. The mysterious Frontman says it best when he suggests that the goal is to give the 456 contenders an equal chance, where the outside world made equality a virtual impossibility.


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