When Squid Gamelaunched on Netflix last September, the world erupted with excitement about the show’s quiet and brutal genius. Even more exciting was the show’s four nominations for the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards for drama, stunt ensemble, female actor in a drama for Jung Ho-yeon, and male actor in a drama for Lee Jung-jae.
This year’s nominations met history head-on as Squid Game became the first non-English language series to ever break through the SAG-AFTRA nominations. Lee’s international acclaim is just the latest development in a career that has spanned more than 30 years, establishing him as one of South Korea’s most popular actors.
If you haven’t watched Squid Game yet, then you’re missing out on a global phenomenon. Upon its release in September 2021, the show spent 19 weeks as one of Netflix’s top 10 most streamed series, racking up 111 million views, which is over half of Netflix's 209 total subscribers.
Lee stands at the center of the series as Seong Gi-hun, a relatable gambler and absentee father whose luck seems to improve during the deadly playground games that result in a single winner taking home the cash prize of 45.6 billion won ($36 million)
Lee reflects on his time on the show, telling IndieWire recently, “When you look at all of the 456 people in the game, all of their stories, all of their hardships they go through in their lives, these stories are very relatable. I think that [Gi-hun] was exactly like that to me because he’s somebody you can meet in your actual life.”
The reliability of the show is deeply compelling as it critiques capitalism and the dehumanization of poverty-stricken individuals. The character development is excellent, because viewers get to know each player and what motivates them. The writing in the show is some of the best of the year, including in its final episode.
Netflix allows viewers to experience the series in Korean with English subtitles. You can also watch the dubbed version, currently available in English, French, Spanish, and German, and in English with audio descriptions for the visually impaired viewers.
How you watch the series has an impact on what the series means. There are major differences in meaning between the original Korean version with the English subtitled version, and the dubbed version, which eliminates much of the cast’s brilliant performance.
'Squid Game'Credit: NetflixLee encourages viewers to opt for the subtitles to capture the full scope of the performances, which are meticulously executed to highlight the diverse characters’ experiences in the normal world and inside the game.
Lee delved into his process, describing decisions on when to take a breath for the greatest effect on a screen to capture the subtle nuances of a scene.
“Body language is so important and sometimes you have to be a little bit exaggerated just to make sure the audience understands the situation quickly,” Lee says. “Other times you have to focus on the reality of it, so you let your body be as natural as possible. Because the way you move on screen is something that is so quickly noticed by the audience, I tend to pay a lot of attention to it.”
Watching the show dubbed is… distracting, to say the least. The voice actors were not able to capture the tone of the characters, often feeling flat and misplaced. I mean, just watch this clip to understand what I mean:
Do yourself a huge favor, and watch Squid Game with subtitles to see the outstanding performances from the entire cast. There is a reason why the show is leading the pack in the SAG awards and has us waiting eagerly for season 2.
Let us know your favorite scene or performance from Squid Game in the comments below!