Just because we can build it, doesn’t always mean that we should….
On Netflix today, from writer/director Yeon Sang-ho who gave us frenetic rides in a world over run with Zombies in both Train To Busan & Peninsula returns here with a slice of thoughtful science-fiction in JUNG-E that manages to ask some interesting and philosophical questions in the spirit of all good science fiction while not skimping on some big time action.
In this gripping sci-fi thriller, humans have escaped Earth, which has been devastated by drastic climate change. And to end the war taking place at the shelters, the brain of the legendary mercenary Yun Jung-yi is cloned by those trying to develop the ultimate A.I. combat warrior.
While North American audiences tend to deviate away from high concept science fiction, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still get embraced around the world and writer/director Yeon Sang-ho jumps into the ethics of what we can do and what we should do in the modern age with effortless aplomb that gives us flashbacks of something like Blade Runner.
While we’ll grant it’s not quit as stylized as that, Yeon Sang-ho knows how to world build and does that here with ease borrowing from many science-fiction films that have come before it. In many ways this movie is a ‘greatest hits’ when it comes to the genre, it’s not exactly exploring any fresh ground but it does so in a way that allows the audience to get emotionally invested while also appreciating any moments of action that come our way.
Yes the effects are much more CGI based then practical, but there isn’t an over reliance on them either as we unfold the ethics around an issue that is seemingly tearing at the very fabric of humanity itself as well. The actors and performances easily stand out from any of the green screen that we may be dealing with in what is essentially a 3 person chamber piece.
In what ended up being her last performance (she passes away in May 2022), actress Ryu Kyung-soo delivers strong work here as a woman on the brink of her own mortality working with the brain of her own mother on a daily basis makes for a compelling dynamic as it all speaks to the fear but necessity of mortality as part of the human condition and the ever eternal chase to cheat death.
Kim Hyun-joo (who you may recognize from the Netflix series Hellbound) is strong as not only the mother to our lead but the mercenary that could be the key to stopping a civil war on earth while Kang Soo-youn captures the essence of a hope that has escaped him while focusing on the goal of pleasing the Chairman of the company which we eventually learn will end up more hollow the we had initially anticipated.
While JUNG-E isn’t anything that could be defined as ground breaking, it’s still thoughtful and engaging storytelling that will have audiences thinking long after the credits have rolled.