When firefighter Ja-Hong dies in a tragic accident, in the process of saving a young girl from a burning building, he is brought in to the underworld, Hell, where he faces seven trials in 49 days to decide if he is worthy a gain the chance for resurrection.
Ja-Hong is designated as a Paragon: a person who has supposedly lived a virtuous life and because of this he has a great chance to succeed the trials and return to the real world. Introduced and guided by three guardians of the Afterlife, they will represent him in the numerous trials ahead which will measure his existence against the Gods’ high standards.
The guardians themselves have an interest in getting their subjects through the trials as they will be resurrected too if they manage to succeed in processing 49 souls through to resurrection in a 100 year time span and they are closing in on their target. Starring Ha Jung-woo (The Handmaiden, The Yellow Sea, The Chaser) as Gang-rim, lead Grim Reaper and head defender of Ja-Hong. Cha Tae-hyun as Kim Ja-hong, Ju Ji-hoon (Asura: City of Madness) as Haewonmak, Kim Hyang-gi as Lee Deok-choon.
As a visual spectacle travelling to the various Hells gives a great variety of scenery, all of which are different and impressive in their own ways. In the Hell of Murder the trial takes place in front of the God of Murder but over a volcano of the damned souls, the Hell of Violence over a vacuum sink hole, the Hell of Betrayal a heavenly passage, the Hell of Indolence over a river and waterfall, the Hell of Deceit in a forest of blades, the Hell of Injustice in a frozen wasteland and the Hell of Filial Impiety a scorching desert.
The tense trials of Ja-Hong are well balanced against some moments of action and tension as the group attempt to move from Hell to Hell in the allotted time. As they progress through the trials Along With The Gods becomes more of a dual narrative between the real world and the Afterlife; spending equal time developing the story of what is happening in both places due to the effects of developments in the real world having an effect on the fate of Ja-Hong: The presence of a vengeful spirit speeds up time in the Afterlife, putting more pressure on them all. Gang-rim decides that he needs to return to the real world to investigate who or what is causing this vengeful spirit to target them. We also learn more and more about Ja-Hong: Is his life really as perfect as he is made out to look? Does he harbour any dark secrets anywhere?
Directed by Kim Yong-hwa, blending the action and drama really impressively and constructing a realistic feeling world and telling a compelling story. This has shown in the film becoming the 2nd highest viewed film in South Korean history.
Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds is the first of two films, filmed simultaneously, and I am looking forward to see where they go with the second part, Along With The Gods: The Last 49 Days released later in 2018.