In 2135, after the sea has risen to catastrophic levels and Earth has started to become uninhabitable, the human race begins to seek out new ways to survive. Heading into space, humanity looks beyond the planet for a new home, and builds orbital shelters amongst the stars.
But shortly after humans have created their accommodation, and started a new life, three of these shelters (8, 12, and 13), declare themselves as a new republic. This new republic then starts a civil war which threatens Earth, and for 40 years a bitter conflict rages on.
As part of the resistance against the shelters, the high-tech Earth-based company, Kronoid, develops an advanced soldier to lead the charge to victory. This soldier is Captain Yun – a combat A.I. robot, with a human’s thoughts.
The real Yun died in battle decades ago, but ownership of her brain data was purchased by Kronoid, so that she could live on as an eternal hero. However, despite various attempts to get this new version of Yun battle ready, she continues to fail every simulation, so is yet to be deployed.
Yun’s now grown-up daughter, Seo-hyun, oversees the program that controls the A.I. bot, and has worked hard to put her emotional attachment to her deceased mother to one side. But following a terminal diagnosis from her doctor, Seo-hyun re-evaluates her position at Kronoid, and begins to question the ethics of the program, the use of such technology, and ultimately her involvement in transforming her mother into a soulless machine.
Written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho, JUNG_E stars Kang Soo-youn, Kim Hyn-Joo, Ryu Kyung-Soo, and Um Jee-won. The movie is a Korean science-fiction film, which is new to Netflix from today.
Taking inspiration from various movies, including Blade Runner (1982), RoboCop (1987), and I, Robot (2004) amongst others, JUNG_E is a futuristic picture about what it means to be human. The film looks at humanity’s relationship to technology, our desire for eternal life, and the ever-encroaching face of questionable corporations who want to mine us all for data.
At the centre of the film is Seo-hyun, who has spent decades working on a project that has essentially extended the life of her mother. She has done this without putting too much thought into the ethical side of the debate, and has herself become somewhat detached and robotic in her actions.
It is only when Seo-hyun is faced with her own mortality that she begins to rethink her stance. This in turn allows the film to explore what it really means to live on as an A.I. construct, and question what the future could hold for anyone willing to sign their lives away for eternity.
And it is here where the film delves into some of its more interesting ideas, and gets to the real meat of the picture. While JUNG_E does borrow heavily from other sources, and it is fair to say it is a bit derivative at times, it does have some solid storytelling, which really makes you think about where the human race is potentially headed in the not-too distant future.
In addition to its story, and its themes about life and existence, JUNG_E boasts a great design aesthetic, and good visual effects. The movie uses CGI throughout, specifically when depicting Captain Yun, and none of it looks rushed or ropey – a rarity these days!
JUNG_E also features a strong cast, including the late Kang Soo-youn, whom the picture is dedicated to. Soo-youn – who plays the role of Seo-hyun – passed away last year, with this film being released posthumously.
I don’t want to dwell on Soo-youn’s death, other than to say it is very sad, but the trajectory of her character, as well as a dedication to her passing during the end credits, does add a certain poignancy to the picture in retrospect. Once again, there is much to think about within this film, and I expect those who watch it will certainly start mulling over their own longevity and legacy.
With this film coming from Sang-ho Yeon, the director behind the excellent Train to Busan (2016), it is perhaps no surprise that JUNG_E also includes some fantastic action sequences. These scenes are expertly choreographed and inject some thoroughly enjoyable energy into the movie.
However, I must be clear when I say that JUNG_E is not an action movie. While the film does include a few robot brawls, and an action-orientated finale, JUNG_E is largely a thoughtful, talkative piece rather than anything else.
Do I believe the film could have done with a bit more action? Well, yes, I do.
If I have one criticism of JUNG_E, it is that for all this movie gets right, I do feel it does drop the ball a touch in the action department. While all of the action sequences are superb, they are simply few and far between and that’s a shame.
Had this picture included a couple more set pieces, specifically during the mid-section, it would have helped push JUNG_E further along. As it stands, JUNG_E is around 80% of a great movie, but it falls short of getting full marks because it needs just a little more dynamism to get it over the line.
While I don’t believe JUNG_E fully lives up to its potential, there is enough in the film to make it a worthy watch. The picture’s discussions on mortality make for interesting viewing, and visually it is all very appealing.
Yes, there are other films out there which work a little better, including the aforementioned trio of Blade Runner, RoboCop, and I, Robot, but there’s still plenty of room for JUNG_E to do its thing too. This is an intriguing little sci-fi film, with much to like, and even if it does feel a little undercooked in places, it’s still enjoyable stuff.
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