Good Ol’ Review: Kim Hyun Joo and Kang Soo Yeon Are the Main Event in Netflix’s “JUNG_E”

JUNG E Movie Review

Big Spoilers with warning before they begin

Netflix’s Jung_E (정이) is a simple, relatable character drama masked as a sci-fi thriller. And that is perfectly fine. Kim Hyun Joo and the late Kang Soo Yeon in her final film appearance deliver fantastic performances to elevate what is otherwise a visually striking film that could have gone deeper into more profound discussions.

Jung_E is set in the 22nd century when Earth has been decimated by climate change and humans have been driven off the planet into man-made shelters in space. When the inhabitants of three of those shelters rebel, a civil war erupts between the Allied Forces and the self-proclaimed Adrian Republic.

With the ongoing war now spanning four decades, the Allied Forces depend on an institute researching artificial intelligence called Kronoid. In order to develop an army of AI fighting machines, Kronoid uses the brain of legendary mercenary Captain Yun Jung Yi (Kim Hyun Joo) to find a way to clone her knowledge and skills into android bodies.

Dr. Yun Seo Hyun (Kang Soo Yeon) is the team leader of the project codenamed JUNG_E and through simulations, uses the data from Captain Yun Jung Yi’s final mission in order to program and mass produce the perfect fighting machine.

*Spoilers Begin*

JUNG E Movie Review

Jung_E is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth with some excellent cyberpunk visuals that help to flesh out a realized world in such a short amount of time. Being able to quickly establish that visually striking world, in turn, helps to set the stage for the film’s strongest angle which is its two main characters.

There is not much exposition, which is sometimes the case with settings like the one featured in this film. Maintaining that bit of mystery and keeping the action mostly within the walls of the research center help to focus the story on the character moments that end up the film’s most affecting aspect.

Captain Yun Jung Yi turns out to be Dr. Yun Seo Hyun’s mother. And the film depicts the difficulties that Dr. Yun experiences seeing an android that looks and thinks like her mother going through repeated simulations and failures.

The film touches upon, though maybe not necessarily explores, the usual themes and discussions surrounding artificial intelligence. Instead, it introduces a future where android bodies implanted with complete brain data from actual people open up a new form of discrimination and classism. Alongside the familiar discourse about humanity and human connections.

Though Jung_E does not get into big moral discussions, the ideas that are broached, again, help to support the main event of the film. And that is the relationship between mother and daughter.

JUNG E Movie Review

Both Kang Soo Yeon and Kim Hyun Joo are just excellent. They are able to do so much with what is essentially a straightforward screenplay. That mother-daughter relationship drives the bursts of explosive action, emotions and the film’s climactic conflict in a way that immerses the audience in the world Jung_E has created.

Their performances fuel a poignant sincerity that really makes the film more of a character-driven drama rather than a typical science-fiction adventure. There are still of course many hallmarks of the sci-fi genre. And it also bears repeating that the visuals of the film, including CGI and practical effects, are really stunning and worthy of praise alongside the powerful performances of its lead stars.

*Spoilers End*

JUNG E Movie Review

Ultimately, even as its sci-fi visuals soar, Jung_E is most successful as a down to earth character drama about very real human relationships. It is an easy watch with a simple, though relatable and emotional story.

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