Movie review: Gong Yoo, Park Bo-gum add poignant touch to sci-fi 'Seobok'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Apr 16 2021 06:06 AM

Movie review: Gong Yoo, Park Bo-gum add poignant touch to sci-fi 'Seobok' 1
Gong Yoo and Park Bo-gum in 'Seobok'

Seobok (Park Bo-gum) is the first and only successful prototype of a human clone whose genes were entirely modified through genetic manipulation, rendering him an undying being. Named after a legendary servant seeking the elixir of immortality for his emperor, Seobok had bone marrow that produces stem cells with proteins which can cure any human disease. He also had brainwaves so strong that they can move objects around him when provoked.

When his developer was murdered, the specimen Seobok had to be protected at all costs. Min Ki-hun (Gong Yoo) is an ex-intelligence agent who had been called out of retirement to escort and ensure safe transport of Seobok to another facility. When their convoy was ambushed by American soldiers, Min had to use his skills to get Seobok out alive and bring him to safety, while dealing with the crippling effects of his guilt and his brain tumor. 

As written by director Lee Yoong-ju, "Seobok" was about the developing relationship between these two men on the run from people who wanted the specimen for their own ends. Ki-hun was the gruff and jaded older brother who had to keep his innocent and curious little brother in line, as they try to gain each others trust. The two lead actors both get into their characters with effective chemistry between them. While Gong went intense, Park shone in his restraint. 

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Meanwhile, behind all this dramatic pursuit was the philosophical paradox of how death is what kept humanity alive and going as we know it now. As humans are the only species who are aware of their own mortality, fear of death gave life its meaning. With immortality, humans would lose this drive, only fostering greed. Ki-hun and Seo Bok also argue about worthiness to live and the reasons why one wants to go on living. 

In true Korean cinema tradition, behind all its expensive-looking sci-fi special effects of the fancy hi-tech laboratory facilities as well as the violent displays of Seo Bok's powerful telekinetic abilities, "Seobok" is a thought-provoking personal and philosophical drama at heart. 

Hammy supporting actors aside, the film was carried by the magnetic performances of its two charismatic lead stars, making that concluding moment one of sheer poignance.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."