Directed by Yeon Sang-ho of Train to Busan fame, The Korean Netflix film Jung_E is set in the 22nd century where the Earth has become almost inhabitable and most humans have migrated to shelters on the orbits of the Earth and the Moon.
Amidst the already chaotic scenario, Shelters 8, 12 and 13 name themselves the Adrian Republic and declare war on the rest of humanity. The remaining humans unite as the Allied Force, and the two factions have been at war since then.
The Jung_E project
Jung_E begins with Captain Yun Jung-yi being surrounded by enemy robots as she heroically fights her way through. However, a bullet to her finger reveals that she is made up of wires and before she can panic, she is deactivated, indicating that she is not human but an AI of the real Captain Yun who has been in a coma after a failed mission.
It turns out, the tech company Kronoid has team leader Dr. Yun Seo-hyun working on the Jung_E project to create the perfect combat AI robot which is based on her mother, Captain Yun. But the higher-ups are not happy with the progress as Yun’s AI keeps failing at the same point in simulation which if it passed would be the perfect copy of the war hero.
Back in time, Yun had been seen as the only one who could end the civil war between the Adrian and Allied had she completed her last mission which she failed. Kronoid had hoped to create her replica to end the war.
Dr. Yun and Director Kim Sang-hoon do their best to greenlight the Jung_E project but to no avail. Kim comes off as the hilarious sidekick who believes in the project and supports Dr. Yun throughout the way. Staff member Jae-kyung is impressed with the team leader’s handling of the situation and reveals that he joined the project because he was a huge fan of Captain Yun.
Seo-hyun explains that the only reason her mother became a mercenary was so that she could pay for her daughter’s treatments as she had cancer. The day she got her surgery which was successful was the day Captain Yun had her last mission which put her in a coma.
Dr. Yun Seo-hyun’s personal struggle
Dr. Yun heads for her ethics test and on the way notices a mother assuring her child that she will be back soon. Seo-hyun remembers the last time she saw her mother. They had hugged by rubbing cheeks and Captain Yun had promised that she would be back soon.
After her ethics test, the doctor shows her her scan and tells her that her cancer is back. She only has 3 months left and her best option is to move her brain to a prosthetic body known as Type A which is expensive. Type B would give her a body too but her brain’s data would be used by the government and she would forfeit some basic human rights. Type C would be free of cost but she would not be treated as human as companies would be allowed to use her brain to create clones of her.
She is hesitant and goes to meet her mother who only has her brain and torso. She remembers hearing the news that her mother survived her last mission but she was in critical condition. Her grandmother had allowed her brain to become Type C and in return, they would fund Seo-hyun’s education and treatments.
Director Kim Sang-hoon’s suspicious mood swings
At Kronoid, AI model 18 is activated. Director Kim suggests trying something different and shooting it in the leg before the simulation. It is overpowered but before they can end the simulation, a new part of the AI’s brain is activated in yellow and it fights back. The team is happy with the progress and head to HQ to tell the chairman.
They are stopped by the new product development head, Lee Se-yeon. She tells them they can’t see the chairman and Kim is furious and suspicious as to why a military company would need a products department. She laughs at his outburst and seems fascinated. They head to the lab and Kim’s mood changes when he sees the new and better Jung_E body parts. A staff member announces the chairman’s appearance and Kim is excited to see him. As they enter the office, Kim is deactivated.
It is revealed that he is the first prototype of the chairman himself. The chairman announces that the civil war has ended, that they don’t need combat AIs and Kronoid will be focusing on household AIs with the data they have developed in the Jung_E project. He also reveals he will destroy Kim and cheers up Dr. Yun who is disappointed.
At the next test run, Kim is upset that the AIs keep dying at the same moment of the simulation. He reactivates the AI and cuts off its arm and even shoots its leg but the yellow part of its brain doesn’t reappear. Dr. Yun takes back control and stops Kim. He is furious and points his gun at her but then leaves.
The last simulation
Dr. Yun takes a look at all of the data and notices that one of the AIs has been taken by Jae-kyung. She goes to his room to ask him and spots one of the AI models. It is scantily clad and she is horrified. She covers her mother’s body while Jae-kyung tries to explain that he got orders from HQ to make sexual features for Captain Yun’s AI. Dr. Yun is furious and tries to choke him.
He tells her that her mother’s brain was Type C and could be used for any type of product and she is disheartened. She heads to her office and sees Kim who is also upset as he gets the notice to shut down project Jung_E. He informs her that they are allowed one last test run.
Dr. Yun heads to the AI section and activates the last model. She tells it that it survived but is fatally wounded. The AI tearfully accepts it but the yellow part of its brain appears as it asks Dr. Yun about Seo-hyun’s surgery. It shows the same feelings as the real Yun as it recalls going to war to pay for her treatment and is relieved that Seo-hyun’s cancer is in remission.
It also gets Captain Yun’s real memory that Seo-hyun had given her a doll that would protect her in the mission. It claims that it had lost the doll and Dr. Yun realises that all of the AIs died in the simulation after spotting the doll. She deactivates the AI and wails as it feels and talks just like her mother hinting that her brain cloning has almost been perfected.
The next day, before the simulation, Dr. Yun personally hooks up the AI to the simulation. She realises that the yellow part of the brain is the memory that Captain Yun had a daughter and she deletes it. She then whispers to the AI and tells it that it isn’t human and how it will be shut down after the simulation.
The simulation begins and everyone is in a gloomy mood. The simulation ends after the AI is shot at the same moment as the previous models. Jae-kyung finds it weird that the AI’s response is weaker than the previous models and Kim brushes it aside. The guards unhook the AI and lead it to its chamber. At that moment, Kim finds the whole thing odd and goes to recheck the simulation. He notices that the AI was never shot dead and it just fell and pretended to get deactivated. He alerts the lab that an AI is on the loose.
The AI’s escape
The guards are confused by the alarm and the AI uses it to disarm them and run away. Kim activates all of their untested combat models without a brain to find the AI. In the meantime, Dr. Yun deletes all of the data of Captain Yun so her brain can never be cloned again. The AI comes across the other combat models and overpowers them.
Dr. Yun finds it and helps it escape in one of the bodies of the newer combat models. They hide in a sky train but are ambushed by Kim who had suspected Dr. Yun of betraying the chairman after analysing her ethics test. She tells him that she deleted the memory of Yun’s daughter from the AI and he shoots her. The AI fights back and shoots him in the eye which gives way to wires.
He sees that he too is an AI and realises that he is not bound by the physics of humans. He rushes towards the AI and at that moment the robot guards also appear and almost defeat it. Dr. Yun tries to help despite her wounded shoulder and seeing this the AI fights back. It throws Kim off the train and kills the other robots.
It tries to take care of Dr. Yun’s wound but they hear police sirens and she begs it to run away. The AI is conflicted as Dr. Yun pushes it away and tells it that it is free. It hugs Dr. Yun and rubs her cheek who is shocked to see that the AI has finally been perfected as it recalled its memories of Seo-hyun and their special cheek hug despite her deleting it. It runs off into the wilderness and Dr. Yun calls it mother and wishes it luck.
What do you think of Jung_E’s story? Have we missed any crucial details in this recap? Do let us know in the comments below!