Seobok, written and directed by Lee Yong-ju, screened at Fantasia Festival and stars Park Bo-Gum as Seobok and Gong Yoo as Ki Heon. Ki Heon, a former intelligence agent, has to transport Seobok, the first human clone, to safety. Unfortunately, other groups have plans for Seobok and the secrets to eternal life he may hold. Seobok contains sci-fi, action, drama, and adorable moments packed into a delightful film. It entertains but also presents a moral quandary within the film. Point of fact, there are several, and I would’ve preferred they focus a bit more.
Gripping Acting and Action
The acting is impressive. Anyone who has seen Train to Busan already knows Gong Yoo has the skill set for films that have range. His character’s humor lies in his anger. Ki Heon stays frustrated with everything. At first, he appears calculating and mean. However, as the story progresses, we understand Ki Heon’s mood thanks to Gong Yoo’s acting. Ki Heon makes us wonder what we would compromise for the sake of more life, more time. Park Bo-Gum as Seobok gives a moving performance. He has all that power, yet his gaze is both strong and childlike. He stops to notice what we take for granted because he’s never lived outside the lab.
The action and effects are exciting and beautiful. Every time Seobok uses his ability, the special effects are terrific. It looks realistic, so it won’t pull audiences out of the world Lee Yong-ju crafts. There’s even a moment near the end that gave me flashbacks to Charlie in Firestarter, which ratcheted up my excitement. Viewers will laugh at the groups after Seobok. Because why would you bother going after someone you know is that powerful? The directing is good. Shots give audiences a view of the beauty and wonder Seobok experiences when out in the world.
Important Questions But Needs Focus
The film explores the question of creating clones for harvest, but not in any depth. The film has similarities to Never Let Me Go and Firestarter. There’s also the Frankenstein issue of creating and destroying. The creator is not the one held accountable when things go awry. The one who suffers is the one created. Would a clone be human with the same rights as everyone else? Is it fair to make someone live a life of subjugation and pain for the sole purpose of harvesting their parts for others?
Another question I loved was the discussion around creativity. Many believe it’s our limited existence, the fact that death comes for us, that pushes our creativity. Would that fire still exist if we could no longer die? After all, our finite time is what drives us. Many people, who realize they are dying soon, try to cram a lifetime of experiences into a short period. These are fascinating questions, but the film doesn’t focus enough on either but instead skirts around them.
An Entertaining Sci-fi Addition
While some backstory for the characters is understandable, I would have preferred the film to focus on the present. There are some confusing parts in the plot, so the film is not perfect. But, the film does hold the audiences’ interest. Seobok is broad in scope. If discussions around humanity, death, and life, delivered in sci-fi, action package is your interest, this film will not disappoint. It doesn’t elevate the conversation, but it does entertain in the asking. Seobok is not dour or gloomy, but it does have sadness given the subject. So expect your heartstrings tugged a bit. In large part, thanks to the acting and chemistry between Gong Yoo and Park Bo-Gum.
Feature photo courtesy of Fantasia Festival