Now Streaming: DR. BRAIN, Thrilling Memories, Mysteries and Tragedies
Lee Sun-kyun stars in a sci-fi drama series, written for the screen and directed by Kim Jee-woon, now streaming globally on Apple TV+.
Victor Frankenstein would approve.
The six-episode Apple Original series debuts globally today on the Apple TV+ streaming service, which also launches today in South Korea. The Korean-language series will premiere with the first episode, followed by one new episode weekly. I've seen all six episodes.
Known informally as Dr. Brain, due to his continually intense concentration on his experimental research, as well as his distinct lack of recognizable human emotions, Se-won Koh (Lee Sun-kyun) brooks no casual conversation among his fellow laboratory workers, although none of them can really be called his co-workers, since none of them can even approach his level of intellect.
Everyone is cowed by Se-won's stern demeanor and glowering face, except for fellow research doctor Namil Hong (Lee Jae-won), who appears to be ready to follow him anywhere, even to the Gates of Hell, which comes in handy when Se-won decides that he himself will be the first human subject for his experiments in 'brain-syncing.'
Se-won has been fully obsessed with his experiments for quite some time, due to reasons that are disclosed elsewhere in the first episode, which kicks the series off with a deadly and disturbing bang that only grows more disquieting and unsettling as the series proceeds. For much of the time, he is investigating something that happened to his wife Jaeyi Jung (Lee Yoo-young), alongside private detective Kangmu Lee (Park Hee-soon), even as police detective Lieutenant Choi (Seo Ji-hye) leads the official investigation.
Throughout his distinguished career, director Kim Jee-woon has rarely struck any false notes, even when working with less than ideal material (i.e., The Last Stand, 2013). More often, he has rambled comfortably roughshod through any challenging patches (i.e. The Good the Bad the Weird, 2008) to produce superior films, no matter the genre (The Foul King, A Bittersweet Life).
Here, he taps into the most effective elements in his horror thrillers A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) and I Saw the Devil (2010) to compose a series that becomes ever more effective and disturbing as it plays. Drawing upon a same-titled Korean webtoon by Hongjacga, the series makes terrific use of all six hours or so to make something terrifying and vivid, where the unnerving twists and vicious turns are not marked by obvious indicators in advance.
The first episode lays out the basic premise well, which makes the series almost appear to be a Frankenstein knock-off, but from the second episode onward, the narrative quickly scoots into its own strange new territory, exploring the mysteries of the brain and how it connects and directs every other human movement and emotion. (In particular, the ramifications of 'brain-syncing' are developed in a manner I had not anticipated.)
Se-won Koh becomes a compelling, though unreliable, guide, largely because he has only a general sense of where he is going, with nary a specific direction in mind. He knows only that he wants to get there as soon as possible.
Signals constantly get crossed, and a general sense of unease lingers far into the night. Bloody and disturbing violence erupts infrequently yet always unexpectedly. No one is safe, but who is responsible?
A superior and enveloping thriller that constantly jabs at the viewer's kidneys, Dr. Brain feels like nothing else on the Apple TV+ streaming service.
Now Streaming covers international and indie genre films and TV shows that are available on legal streaming services.
- Lee Sun-Kyun