Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula
The sequel to the surprise zombie hit, Train To Busan, arrives with Peninsula. Picking up four years later, is the follow up worth checking out? Check out my full review to see what I thought!
Train to Busan caught me, like many others, completely by surprise. I checked it out initially because I’m always down for zombie movies, but I was blown away by the emotional connection and poignant themes that were present. As such, I was very much excited to check out Peninsula, even though it’s not technically a sequel.
The film takes place in the same “world” as Train to Busan, kicking off in tandem with the events of the initial outbreak we see in the first movie. Jung-seok brings his sister, brother-in-law (Chul-min), and his young nephew on a ship bound for a safe quarantine zone. Things go horribly wrong, leaving only Jung and Chul to survive (this is all in the first few minutes, so impossible to discuss the rest of the film without a little spoiler).
From there, the film picks up four years later. Large parts of Korea are now under complete quarantine and the infection continues to run free. Jung and Chul begrudgingly look out for one another in the city of Hong Kong where they, and other surviving Koreans, are treated like outcasts and unwanted refugees.
They’re brought back together for an opportunity that seems too good to be true: head to the Korean peninsula of Incheon and recover a truck FULL of money. All they have to do is bring it back (from deep within the quarantine zone) and they’ll get half. Obviously there’s nothing exactly legal about the endeavor, but the potential to have enough funds to start a new life anywhere they choose, they can’t help but give it a try.
Even armed to the teeth, the peninsula is far more dangerous, and zombies are far from the only concern. Survivors still live in Incheon, some eeking out a meager existence on their own, while others have banded together in Mad Max style communities run by a deadly militia. Separated soon after an attack by the militia, Jung and Chul must survive their own perilous journey and still find a way to complete the mission.
Ups and Downs
Without diving any deeper into spoiler territory, I’ll leave it at that. Suffice it to say, Peninsula is much more focused on the action aspect, feeling more like a straight up action film (complete with some cool martial arts moments) than a horror/drama. My reference to Mad Max isn’t by coincidence as the movie delves into that post-apocalyptic feel with the downfall of society.
There are some impressive car chases, gun fights, fist fights, and all manner of zombie killing that goes on in the film. There’s a lot to enjoy if you like your zombie films on the action side rather than straight up horror. I was definitely never bored while watching the film, and it felt like every other scene offered up some manner of “holy shit” moment to gawk over.
This is tempered by the humor that’s present throughout. These moments feel genuine, not forced, and do a great job of taking the edge off the intense action. They offer some much needed breathing room before you dive right back into more mayhem.
The downside to this, however, is Peninsula lacks the same emotional connection we got from Train to Busan. The movie kicks off with a solid punch to the gut in “the feels” but everything that comes after feels weaker. There are several attempts to rope audiences in emotionally, but I never felt strongly enough about the characters to get where the story wanted me. Instead, these moments came off as forced, overt, attempts to pull on your heartstrings rather than a genuine feeling.
Where the first film engaged you by connecting you directly to the characters and their plight, this is more focused on the world itself. This leaves plenty of room for some solid set pieces, but left me detached from the characters overall. Along these same lines, it also robs some of the overall themes present in the film.
There are some interesting ideas brought up about society, prejudice, and even what happens when good people can’t get it together. None of these feel particularly well explored, however. Often they pop up with no real impact on the story or end up drowned out by the action.