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Asian cinema: Korean films

Film review – Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds is a fun fantasy drama with spectacular effects and an all-star Korean cast

Adapted from Joo Ho-min’s webcomic by director Kim Yong-hwa and starring Cha Tae-hyun, Along with the Gods has proved a holiday hit in South Korea with its heady blend of melodrama, humour, action and fantasy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 9:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 9:00am

3/5 stars

In Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds, a firefighter who heroically died in the line of duty is taken to the afterlife, where he must undergo seven separate trials to evaluate his life on Earth. Adapted from Joo Ho-min’s webcomic, the fantasy drama has proved a holiday hit in South Korea, not least because of its star-studded cast and flashy visual effects.

In the story, firefighter Ja-hong (Cha Tae-hyun) will be reincarnated if he is acquitted in the trials; but if found guilty, his soul will be banished to hell for eternity. Over the next 49 days, every aspect of his troubled childhood and questionable lifestyle are exposed and scrutinised, causing all manner of trauma and heartache.

Each trial takes place in a different celestial realm, spectacularly realised by director Kim Yong-hwa, and is presided over by a different judge, played by the likes of Lee Jung-jae and Kim Ha-neul.

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Throughout his ordeal, Ja-hong is accompanied by a trio of guardians (Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-hun and Kim Hyang-gi). Recalling Clarence the angel from It’s a Wonderful Life, while more closely resembling Neo in The Matrix sequels, the guardians are also under assessment, which causes them to bicker among themselves and plot to outdo each other.

The film’s heady blend of melodrama, humour, action and fantasy recalls the classic A Matter of Life and Death, with a dash of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey thrown in for good measure. Inevitably, Along with the Gods is engulfed by melodrama towards the end, but along the way there is fun to be had.

Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds opens on January 11

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