Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days
Written and Directed by Kim Yong-hwa
Starring Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-hoon, Kim Hyang-gi, Ma Dong-seok, Kim Dong-wook
The events of the first film in the Along with the Gods series involved three grim reapers working towards the trial of the worthiness of a potential paragon. The second film begins where the first left off, as the paragon’s brother is set to a seemingly unwinnable trial for his own mortal soul. If there seems more at stake this time, its because the vast world to which we were introduced in the first film is expanded even further this time, with even more at risk. Indeed, this time it feels as though eternity itself beckons, and may even fall in on itself.
The story of Kim Soo-hong (Kim Dong-wook) has deep significance to the head reaper, Gang-rim (Ha Jung-woo). Just why this is so important also has much to do with his “junior” partners played by Ju Ji-hoon and Lee Deok-choon, even if they have no idea why or even how.
Haewonmak and Lee Deok-choon have a parallel mission to retrieve the God of House (Ma Dong-seok, known as Don Lee in the states). God of House ropes them into his mission and in the meantime, they are told the story of each of their pasts of which they have no recollection.
Yong-wa masterfully weaves both missions and all of the stories into a cohesive whole. As good as the first film is in upping the emotional ante, this film is at another level entirely. Each of the leads are given a chance to find their voice and more than once they have moments of significance that have ramifications beyond mere existence.
The greatness of this series is in its ability to mix action, emotion, mythology and philosophy effortlessly and quite earnestly. Whether one believes in the premise, we understand that the characters believe it. This makes it as important to us as it is to them.
I have no idea whether or not this type of experience is commonplace in South Korean storytelling. That the success of the film in country is at a record pace would indicate the fair citizens within find it equally relevant as this reviewer.
That the second film segues so perfectly into the first is due to the fact that they were filmed simultaneously. Two more films are being prepared for 2019. The way this film ends opens a few doors once more.
This viewer is ready to go through.
(***** out of *****)