PENINSULA (2020) Review!

Peninsula, South Korean director Sang-ho Yeon’s follow-up to his 2016 film, Train to Busan, expands on the Busan story exponentially. Where Train to Busan was, for the most part, a self-contained tale of a father trying to save his daughter while aboard a bullet train (the KTX) en route to Busan during a zombie apocalypse, Peninsula widens the focus from a man and his daughter to several different plot threads that ultimately converge in an explosive climax! Starring Gang Dong-Won (Illang: The Wolf Brigade), Jung-hyun Lee (Alice in Earnestland), Re Lee (Witch’s Court) and the precocious and delightful Lee Ye-Won (Romang), Peninsula takes place 4 years after the events of Train to Busan. We’re shown, via a late night talk show, what’s happened to the Korean peninsula within the last four years and the measures taken to quarantine the area. Jung Seok (Dong-Won), an ex-soldier and currently living in Hong Kong, is given a mission to return to the peninsula, along with 3 others, to retrieve a cargo truck filled with millions of dollars in US currency. What turns out as a simple snatch and grab ultimately becomes a fight for survival and a chance at redemption for Jung. While on the peninsula, survivors are discovered still residing in a devastated Korea as well as hordes of zombies and a gated community (think Woodbury from The Walking Dead) where all is not as it seems.

I hesitate to say anymore because I’m already leaning towards spoiler territory. Suffice to say that the zombie action is plentiful and the action has been ramped up from the standard zombie action of Train to Busan to something more akin to Aliens. Prior to watching the film, I’d already come across other reviews on the internet that gave less than favorable opinions but to be honest, I’m at a loss as to why. Peninsula isn’t AS character driven as Train to Busan but I felt that a lot of time was taken to make you empathize with our heroes. However, in the end, Peninsula is a zombie film and does what most sequels do: they give us more! Aliens wasn’t as character driven as Alien but James Cameron didn’t retread old territory and it paid off…did it ever pay off! What director Sang-ho Yeon has created with Peninsula is the exact same thing that Cameron created with Aliens. MORE zombies, MORE action and even MORE people for you to care about and root for.

While watching Peninsula, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between it and others of it’s ilk. I’ve already mentioned Aliens but there are shades of The Walking Dead (the gated community), Romero’s Land of the Dead, World War Z and one hell of a knuckle-biting chase sequence that is pure Mad Max! And the score…wow! Not since WWZ have I heard such a powerful score in a zombie film! I Saw the Devil composer Mowg has created the perfect mood music for surviving a zombie apocalypse; epic in scale and suitably tear inducing for the moments that require the pulling of heart strings. The effects are superb and there were a few extremely creepy moments in the film when a cluster of zombies goes on the attack.

If I had to pick one thing I didn’t like while watching the film I’d say it’s the same criticism I’ve had with other foreign films; I’ve never understood films that take place entirely in another country (in this case Hong Kong and Korea) adding the occasional bit of English dialogue between the characters. Why would anyone speak English when the people you’re speaking to already speak your native language? That’s an extremely minor complaint because ultimately, Peninsula, for me at any rate, delivered in bucket loads what I expected from it. I had an immensely great time watching the story unfold and the ending left me wanting more of this story from Sang-ho Yeon!

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