I’m a huge fan of South Korean cinema with some of my favorites being I Saw The Devil (2010 – read our review here), Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance (2002), and Parasite (2019). The film that started my interest in South Korean cinema was Train To Busan (2016 – read our review here). I’ve been anxiously awaiting the sequel, Peninsula, since it was first announced. I avoided all the trailers until I had a chance to watch the film, so I had no clue what to expect. Is Peninsula as good as its predecessor? Read on to find out.
Peninsula was directed by Yeon Sang-go from a script he wrote with Park Joo-Suk. The film stars Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-je, Koo Gyo-hwan, Kim Do-yoon, Lee Re, and Lee Ye-won.
4 years after the outbreak, heading back into the godforsaken land! When the zombie outbreak swept the entire nation, Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) barely escaped South Korea alive.
While living a life of despair in Hong Kong, he receives an enticing offer to return to the quarantined peninsula. His mission is to retrieve an abandoned truck in the middle of Seoul within a time limit and escape the peninsula silently. But his operation goes haywire when a mysterious militia known as Unit 631 ambushes Jung-seok’s small team, as well as even more vicious hordes of zombies.
In his most desperate moment, Min-jung’s (Lee Jung-hyun) family saves him and he plans one last chance to escape the peninsula once and for all.
When I first started watching Peninsula, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The beginning seemed to indicate that we would be getting more of the same. After about 10 minutes, this is proven not to be the case when the film shifts to four years into the future. I will say that, for about the next half hour, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the way Peninsula was playing out. Once I was able to accept it as its own thing, I was much better off, and the film won me over.
One of the issues I did have is it felt like bad humans were the main villains of the film, and the zombies were just a tool for the protagonists and antagonists to use against each other. That being said, I loved the heroes of the film, and the villains were suitably despicable.
Jung-seo, the film’s main protagonist, is racked by loss and struggles to hold on to what little he has left. This film is very much a quest for redemption for him. I also love Min-jung and her family. Her kids are absolute badasses with the way they take out and distract zombies, and Min-jung is no slouch, either. She is quite a badass herself and knows her way around a firearm.
The villains of the film are Unit 631, what’s left of the military force that was supposed to protect the civilians. As always, power corrupts. They take whatever they find and kill anyone who stands in there way. This is fairly standard for post-apocalyptic zombies films and should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the genre.
Peninsula is a combination of various subgenres. Its prologue plays out as a pandemic film before shifting into a heist film before turning into a mix between Beyond Thunderdome and Road Warrior. It’s a weird combination, and it shouldn’t work … but it did for me. This is mainly due to the fact that I actually cared about the heroes of the film, and I wanted to see them survive their situation. The film has a lot of heart to it, much like the original, and that is a major part of why it was a success in my eyes. I felt its ending actually topped the original as its sadness and bleakness had a sense of hope that the original didn’t have.
While having a different feel than Train to Busan, Peninsula is a fairly solid follow up. It features excellent and chaotic action scenes, vicious zombies, a fair amount of heart, and an ending that I feel tops the original. If you’re looking for a straight up sequel, you might be disappointed. If you are looking for a zombie film with a little cheese and a lot of heart, then you can do far worse. Recommended. This film hits select theaters on August 2st!