Coming to Netflix on January 20th, JUNG_E is a futuristic Korean sci-fi action drama, directed by Train to Busan and Hellbound director Sang-ho Yeon. After a messy start, it does take a little while to settle in, eventually finding its feet and slowly building to a very impressive, action-packed and emotional finish.
In the near future, climate change has finally caused sea levels to rise considerably. As a result, humans decided to relocate to space, building approximately 80 shelters between Earth and the Moon’s orbital planes. However, as the humans settled, a small number of shelters declared themselves the ‘Adrian Republic’ and began attacking Earth and the other shelters, leading to decades of war. All of this is told to us via subtitles during the opening credits and the reasons behind the war, along with what’s been going on in the decades since are never really made clear, which frustrated me somewhat. The key point of all of this though is that the humans that are left on Earth are now producing munitions for the war.
Currently, developments are being made on combat A.I. and before we’ve even had the chance to process and understand all of the opening credit nonsense about whatever the Adrian Republic is, we see a lone female soldier battling a bunch of robots. She’s kicking ass too, until she sustains an injury and discovers that beneath her skin she is in fact a robot too. At that point, we realise that this is a simulation designed to test out the latest version of the combat A.I. project. The simulation ends and a bunch of researchers along with other techy types immediately begin reviewing the data to find out how their test subject failed the simulation once again.
The A.I. warrior being tested is a clone of Yun Jung-yi (Kim Hyun-joo), who became a legendary mercenary and military strategist with countless victories to her name during the war. But one failed mission put her into a vegetative state, and now military A.I. development company Kronoid are attempting to create the ultimate combat warrior by cloning her brain. Even more interesting is that it’s been 35 years since that failed mission and Jung-yi’s daughter Yun Seo-hyun (Kang Soo-youn, who sadly passed away last year, shortly after completing the movie) is now the head researcher of what is known as the JUNG_E project.
Almost forcing me to abandon the whole movie, especially coming so soon after the frustrating opening credits, was the introduction of an extremely annoying lab director at Kronoid, Sang-hoon (Ryo Kyung-soo). Barking unnecessary orders at everyone while trying to be funny at the same time, the character really didn’t work for me. Luckily, he doesn’t end up dominating the movie, and his behaviour gets an explanation later on.
What kept me interested beyond the first 10 minutes was the human aspect of the story. Seo-hyun lost her mother 35 years ago as a young girl and now has to watch her exact likeness go through the trauma of battle and the discovery that she isn’t human. We learn that after death there are various options available to you in terms of what can be done with your brain data. Obviously, all of these ‘packages’ are driven by cost and affect what human rights you retain when your data is used in A.I. The highest option gives you all the same rights as any living human, while the lowest option allows your brain data to be used for whatever purpose the government wants in return for compensation for any remaining family members. It’s the lower option that’s been granted to Jung-yi, so when little progress is made with combat development, Seo-hyun is horrified to learn of the alternative plans for her mother’s likeness and brain data. You can clearly see the pain and sadness etched on her face throughout the movie, and she decides to try and put a stop to it all.
I found the visuals in JUNG_E to be stunning. Aside from the Kronoid facility and the depiction of the complex simulations, we often venture outside, where a monorail-style system transports the humans across cities that are mostly submerged under the sea. I was expecting a futuristic war story, so was pleasantly surprised to discover a tale about family and what it means to be human, which made the action-packed finale all the more satisfying.
Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.