Synopsis: Four years after South Korea’s total decimation in Train to Busan, the zombie thriller that captivated audiences worldwide, acclaimed director Yeon Sang-ho brings us Peninsula, the next nail-biting chapter in his post-apocalyptic world. Jung-Seok, a soldier who previously escaped the diseased wasteland, relives the horror when assigned to covert operation with two simple objectives: retrieve and survive. When his team unexpectedly stumbles upon survivors, their lives will depend on whether the best – or the worst—of human nature prevails in the direst of circumstances.
The Review: The bulk of the film is set four years after the events of Train to Busan, the entire Korean peninsula has been quarantined and no one is allowed in or out.
The film starts on Z day with a soldier, Jung Seok (Gang Dong-Won) rushing his sister and her family to a ship that will be bringing survivors to Japan. Leaving the altered hellscape is the only thing that is important, Jung Seok does not stop driving to the port even when another family flags them down and begs them to take their children. This kind of moral dilemma is what made Train to Busan standout among its zombie apocalypse peers and, so far, so will Peninsula. Even harder decisions have to be made when, once in the comfort of the fleeing ship, it is discovered that an infected person has made it on board putting Jung Seok’s family in jeopardy.
Flashing forward four years, Jung Seok is barely recognizable, the events of that day have changed him and still weigh heavy on his shoulders. When we catch up with him he is involved with some kind of criminal activity, the film doesn’t make it explicitly clear, but he is summoned to see “the boss”. He is offered a deal, go back to South Korea and retrieve a truck that is carrying 20 million dollars, and he and his crew split half. The premise is simple and sounds like a ton of fun, what could be better than a post-apocalyptic heist film with zombies? Unfortunately, the film buckles underneath the weight of its own lofty ideas. There are too many ideas thrown into the film that it becomes tonally incoherent. The film devolves into Mad Max by way of Fast and the Furious and does neither of them well. The Peninsula is home to more than just zombies as Jung Seok meets marauders and other survivors. The marauders wouldn’t be the cliché old bad guys without their own coliseum of sorts where they watch as their prisoners take on zombies in a water covered pit.
His relationship with the survivors he meets is a redeeming factor, as they just so happen to be the same family that was begging him to save them as he was rushing to the ship. Will our hero have a chance to redeem himself? Yeah, probably. Train to Busan had some very poignant moments about humanity and the need to survive, the father-daughter relationship was its anchor. Peninsula struggles to find those threads because there is just too much going on that any meaningful character arcs are undercut by bad CGI cars drifting and racing through the abandoned city. If Peninsula could have stuck with its original premise and made a tense and exciting heist film I think the end result would have been another hit for director Yeon Sang-ho. What we end up getting is a halfway decent zombie flick that pales when compared to its predecessor. I am happy to see that this was not a copy of the first film, but its descent into fantastical action seems misplaced.
There are some fun visuals and Yeon Sang-ho can definitely direct some fantastic action sequences. There is a surprising amount of heart to be found at the end of the film as well, but the unfocused narrative snatches any momentum that was built up leaving the moment feeling unearned.
3 out of 5
The Release: The 4k Ultra Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD will be available in stores on November 24th from Well Go USA Entertainment.
· Making-of featurette
· Interviews with cast and crew
· New English dub
Running Time: 116 minutes