Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (Hangul: 신과함께-죄와 벌; RR: Sin gwa Hamkke – Joe wa Beol; lit. “Together with God – Sin and Punishment”) is a 2017 South Korean action fantasy drama film directed by Kim Yong-hwa and based on a webtoon by Joo Ho-min, Along with the Gods. It stars Ha Jung-woo, Cha Tae-hyun, Ju Ji-hoon and Kim Hyang-gi.
I’ve seen my fair share of fantasy plots in Korean dramas, but I think this is the first time I’ve watched one in a Korean movie. Most Korean movies I’ve watched lean towards melodrama, and seem to have only one aim: make you cry buckets of tears.
Naturally, I was excited to see how this would pan out, especially since I was watching it just after the 2nd instalment had been released.
Story of the death of an ordinary firefighter named Kim Ja-hong (Cha Tae-hyun) and three grim reapers, Gang-rim (Ha Jung-woo), Haewonmak (Ju Ji-hoon) and Lee Deok-choon (Kim Hyang-gi) who escorts Ja-hong to the afterlife, where he will be assigned a public defender to represent him in 7 trials in 49 days to find out how he lived his life and where he ought to spend the rest of eternity.
Theme & plot – I’ve come to realize that dramas and movies based on web-toons are usually rather superior when it comes to the theme and plot.
Initially, you might be duped to think that this is going to be an ordinary, action-packed movie about a guy who’s trying to get reincarnated. As the movie progresses, you realize that something is not quite right – the journey is arduous, the defendant (Ja-Hong) seems to be not quite the angelic hero we once thought he was. Judgment after judgment, we began to understand the good intentions behind his deeds, but somehow it still feels a little uneasy, right?
That’s the beauty of the movie – showing all the imperfections in even the most heroic characters. Granted, it’s not a new theme, but you have to give props to the team for weaving these in so seamlessly. Plus, it’s not just one bad deed we are talking about here. It does make you wonder: is it any less heroic if our main lead is doing his best at work (firefighting) because he wants to earn money? Or is it deemed as filial piety because he sends the money home? Is it then a sin if he tries to kill his whole family (including himself) *gasps*, because he doesn’t want them to suffer?
There is no easy answer to all these questions raised, and no amount of humour provided by the characters seem to make the sobriety any lighter.
Character development – Naturally, our main lead Ja-hong’s character is well fleshed- out, and thanks to Cha Taehyun’s acting, it makes it easier for us to follow his train of thought along the plot that is, well, full of plot twists.
I don’t really feel much for the grim reapers, but I think that’s because that’s not much talked about them – yet. I expect that they will go into further detail in the 2nd instalment, so I’ll look forward to that.
There are 2 characters in particular that I wanted to highlight: Ja-Hong’s brother (Su-Hong, played by Kim Dong-Wook), and Private Won Dong-yeon (played by our favourite Kyungsoo from EXO). These two are listed as ‘supporting characters’, but are easily the showstoppers thanks to the character growth throughout the movie. One has to learn to let go of his anger and wrath; the other his cowardice and guilt.
I’m not going to give away too much here because I think this is a part that you have to watch for yourself in order to appreciate this scriptwriting brilliance, but if you have already watched this and know what I mean – well, you know what I mean haha.
Lack of background regarding grim reapers: I know, I know, this comes in the 2nd instalment, but it really wouldn’t hurt to give a little more context. Actually, it’s not the grim reapers I’m curious about, but essentially everyone in Hell. I’m sure some of them have back stories that are worth exploring, that can help us understand a little more about why they make certain judgments, but nope, not covered in the movie at all.
This is one movie that I regretted not catching in cinemas, because it’s one heck of a ride that I would have definitely enjoyed on the big screen.
AWTG is a movie that’s well-received, and for good reason. I’m glad that they didn’t go overboard with the emotional scenes, and didn’t miss the opportunity to create a thought-provoking piece with no lack of funny scenes. It’s a great blend of humour and sadness; sin and virtue. I’m definitely putting this at the top of my Korean movie favourites.