Peninsula Review: Less Train to Busan, More Mad Max.

3 and a half stars
Train to Busan 
is my favourite zombie movie of all time.
It is an emotional thrill ride that I find myself returning to time and time again.
So, you can bet that when I heard a sequel was coming out, titled Peninsula, I was incredibly excited.
Because of the pandemic, many films have not been able to come to cinemas in my country but Peninsula was one that did.
I saw an advertisement for a limited screening and booked a ticket as quick as I could, viewing it in a packed theater.
However, I did go in with some reservations.
In the months before Peninsula’s release, I had seen the trailer and, to me, it looked like a generic zombie story that I had seen a thousand times before.
Train to Busan was so much more than that so I was hoping that its sequel would be at least of a similar caliber.
Although, there were some things that spoke in the film’s favor, like it having the same director as the original, Yeon Sang-ho.
So, when the movie started, I was hopeful, yet cautious.
Well, for the first half hour of the film, all of my concerns flooded away.
The opening of Peninsula had the same emotional impact of Train to Busan, almost bringing me to tears in the first ten to fifteen minutes.

peninsula movie
The first ten to fifteen minutes of Peninsula has the same emotional weight as the original Train to Busan. The rest of the film though…

This time around, the film centers on Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) and his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon), two survivors from the outbreak who have been traumatized by the losses they suffered.
Four years after the virus first broke out, the two and other survivors return to the peninsula to retrieve millions of dollars, which they can use to build new lives for themselves.
Of course, this operation does not go according to plan, with the characters struggling to survive not just against zombies but psychotic humans as well.
As I said, the first half hour of the film is amazing, setting up this storyline incredibly well.
However, after the half hour mark, the fears I had going in were sadly realised as Peninsula devolved into the generic, cliched zombie story I was afraid it would be.
The film honestly feels like they were trying to emulate Mad Max more than Train to Busan.
Seriously, there are so many car chases in this film that just defy the laws of physics and completely broke my suspension of disbelief on multiple occasions.
The CGI also doesn’t help with this but I won’t say that it was awful or anything.
Many of the characters also fall into the cliched zombie tropes of old, most notably the corrupt former soldiers who have become psychotic in the zombie infested landscape.
Look at the villain of the first film, Yong-suk.
He was a commentary on the bad aspects of business culture in South Korea, making him an investing character that we loved to hate.
The villains of this film are just generic, psychotic bad guys.

zombie cage fight
The antagonists of Peninsula are the typical crazy soldiers who feed people to zombies for fun that we have all seen before.

The other characters aren’t much better with the only exceptions being Jung-seok, Chul-min and possibly Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun), but Jung-seok and Chul-min did have the benefit of having the film built around their struggles.
Peninsula also ends very abruptly and in a way that made me wonder what the point was.
There is a problem that I found to be very funny though and that is the English.
The movie has a lot of English speaking characters this time around and this creates many unintentionally hilarious scenes.
Not because of bad pronunciation though, no, but because of how bad the English dialogue is written.
An opening news scene felt completely unnatural and, worst of all, one hilariously bad case of English dialogue had me laughing at a scene that was supposed to be incredibly emotional.
However, I will not say that the film was bad overall.
Like I said, the first half hour is the best part with the first 15 minutes actually getting me close to tearing up because of how emotional it was.
As stated, I also did like a couple of the characters, like Jung-seok.
Unlike Seok-woo from Train to Busan, who was just a businessman caught in this bad situation, Jeong-seok is more of an action hero, which does suit the film he is in.
I liked his arc, which is one of redemption.

pensila character
Although many of the characters are bland, I did like Jeong-seok’s arc quite a bit because it was built up and executed well.

Another thing that is important to note is that, even though I have criticized this film for being just another generic zombie film, that makes it the perfect movie to just sit back and enjoy the action.
If you’re looking for a good popcorn film that you can entertain you for nearly two hours and then never think of again, then you can have fun with Peninsula.
The action is at least well shot enough for you to enjoy yourself.
However, if you are looking for a spiritual successor to the original Train to Busan then you will most likely be left disappointed.

Train to Busan: Best Zombie Movie Ever?

5 stars
I am a big fan of the zombie genre.
I watch The Walking Dead, read the comics, and play The Last of Us fairly often.
So, whenever a zombie movie gets some buzz, I am sure to check it out.
I have seen a lot of zombie movies, yet I was still completely blown away when I first watched 2016’s Train to Busan, under a year ago.
Since then, I have watched it numerous times and have recently come to the conclusion that it is my favourite zombie film of all time.
Directed by Yeon Sang-Ho, Train to Busan is a South Korean film that follows a group of survivors attempting to survive a train full of zombies heading for Busan.
It is, admittedly, a simple premise, but the film milks that premise for everything it is worth and it works brilliantly.

train to hell
Train to Busan has everything a zombie film fan would love.

Train to Busan may start out slow but when it gets going, boy, does it get going.
The film is not just your typical run of the mill zombie film either because it incorporates great political themes for the country and builds on its characters fantastically.
These characters initially seem to fit the stereotypical zombie film tropes.
There are some unlikable businessmen, a pregnant woman, a young couple, it all fits.
But Train to Busan builds on these tropes in such a fantastic way by having the characters move beyond them, to the point that you even care for some of the characters whose names you never learn.
The best example of moving beyond the tropes here is definitely with the main character Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) who is one of the unlikable businessmen I mentioned, initially.
However, as the film progresses, we see him grow from someone who only looks out for himself and his daughter, to someone willing to risk his life for others, and this transition works great.

train to busan
The character arc of Seok-woo is amazing, with him going from an unkind businessman, to a caring fighter by the end of the film.

The other characters are just as great, with one of the stand outs being Seok-woo’s daughter, Su-an, whose child actor Kim Su-an is probably the best actor of the film.
Then there is the capable survivor Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok) who is looking out for his pregnant wife Seong-Kyeong (Jung Yu-mi), both of which have a great dynamic.
You even have a great purposefully unlikable character with the second businessman, Yon-suk (Kim Eui-sung), who I hated more than I had any other movie character in a long time.
The set up for the characters’ arcs are also brilliant, with previously thought to be insignificant things having a massive impact later on.
These characters’ likability adds to the terrific tension of the action scenes because you fear for each and every one of them and, when someone dies, it hits you hard.
Seriously, this is one of those films that will get people crying on multiple occasions.
I will not say who it was but I watched this with my family once and one of them was a crying mess by the end.
The film is so good that I have even heard it may be getting an American remake, which I am very unsure of.
Hopefully, it will not end up like the American remake to the Spanish film Rec, Quarantine, but, even if it is good, I doubt it will be as great of a film as the original.
Although, James Wan is supposedly attached so that is a good sign.
Train to Busan is an amazing zombie movie on every level.
It has fantastic action, brilliant characters with amazing arcs, and complex themes to boot.
Not to mention that it will probably make you cry at least once, before the credits roll.
I cannot recommend this film enough.