23rd November 2020 (UK VOD Premiere), 30th November 2020 (UK Blu-Ray Release)
Peninsula takes place four years after the zombie outbreak in Train to Busan. The Korean peninsula is devastated and Jung Seok, a former soldier who has managed to escape overseas, is given a mission to go back and unexpectedly meets survivors.
Dong-Won Gang, Jung-hyun Lee, Re Lee
There’s an additional key word in the full title of Peninsula.
Rather than declare itself as a true sequel to 2016’s phenomenal Korean zombie horror Train To Busan, Peninsula is instead ‘presented’ by its predecessor. Much like 2019’s Hobbs & Shaw was presented by Fast & Furious (a comparison which I will return to later) or American Pie tenuously linked itself to five abysmal spin-off movies, Peninsula‘s connection to Train To Busan is minimal. It has the same director. It is set in the same universe. The events of the first result in the happenings of this entry. That’s about it as far as connections go. Once you know and accept this, adjust expectations accordingly.
It’s been four years since the outbreak depicted in Train To Busan. South Korea is now a wasteland overrun with the undead. Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won), a Marine Captain who previously escaped the city, relives the horror when assigned to a covert operation on the quarantined peninsula to retrieve a truck containing millions of American Dollars. If he and his team survive, they stand to pocket half the take.
Getting in was easy. Even reaching the truck goes smoothly enough. But during the drive to the port, they encounter Unit 631, a ruthless band of survivors led by Sergeant Hwang who hunt for the living to compete in barbaric games against the undead.
Just reading that outline, you can tell Peninsula is Worlds away from Train To Busan. The action now spills out into the sprawling city as opposed to claustrophobically contained within carriages. The number of players has exponentially increased. All of which are armed with an ample amount of firepower and seemingly unlimited supply of ammunition. In the time that has passed since the outbreak occurred, Earth has adjusted to life with the undead. It’s gone about as well as you’d expect, or at least have seen earlier this year with “The great loo roll and pasta shortage of 2020”, with rogue militant outfits patrolling and controlling the streets. Peninsula has more in common with the likes of action heavy dystopian nightmares Mad Max, Neil Marshall’s Doomsday and the Brad Pitt starring World War Z that it does with the more character driven films of the genre like 2007’s I am Legend or even George Romero’s essential Dawn of the Dead.
Peninsula lacks almost everything which made Train To Busan so compelling. While its “Something on a Somewhere” concept wasn’t anything new – see Snakes on a Plane – the restrictions of being set in such a cramped space meant the focus had to be shifted to the people we were following and the ingenious methods they employ to avoid the zombies to arrive at to their destination unbitten. In Peninsula, by opening up the playing field and introducing more characters, it removes a substantial amount of peril and – arguably more importantly – emotion from proceedings. In fact, it feels as if the zombies play second fiddle to the threat from the living. The real bad guys here are Unit 631, their Sergeant Hwang and the slimy Captain Seo.
In its place though to divert attention from the hollowness of its leads are copious amounts of action sequences, the majority of which are woefully rendered in sub-par CGI. It’s disappointing considering more than 250 artists reportedly worked on the visual effects, but they are jarringly distracting.
I referenced the Fast and Furious franchise earlier. Peninsula appears to have taken many cues from its street racing sensibilities and implement them into its own DNA. Key scenes involve impossibly fast driving, sometimes from a smirking child, with gravity defying drifts in SUV’s to mow down zombies or manoeuvre through extraordinarily tight spaces. These sequences on their own aren’t too much of a problem. It’s the aforementioned visuals which let them down. When in motion, the film could easily pass for a video game cutscene – with the landscape itself being a little too inspired by post-apocalyptic franchise The Last of Us. Even when taken only as a brainless, adrenaline-fuelled action picture, the composition of the overstuffed CGI backgrounds and cutting between live-action drivers, it completely took me out of the moment.
I know I’m being overtly critical of Peninsula. Possibly unfairly so. There’s still plenty to enjoy here; it’s deviation from horror to a more testosterone charged fare means its pace is never anything less than breathlessly accelerated, save for its contrived and falsely sentimental finale which verges on infuriating, and the brutal Colosseum-like games in the mall are a fleeting glimpse of what could be a fleshed out concept. But its the overall connection to Train To Busan which works against it. The bar was set uncommonly high that it was never likely to match it in quality. My advice would be to see it as less of a sequel to Busan and more of a homage to the contemporary, fast-moving zombie pictures of the last 15 years.
Train To Busan Presents: Peninsula is available on Digital VOD from 23rd November & on Blu-Ray & DVD from 30th November. It can be ordered from Amazon along with the Busan Trilogy Boxset.
A limited edition Peninsula Blu-ray SteelBook will also be released alongside a brand new Zavvi exclusive double Blu-ray SteelBook for Train to Busan & Seoul Station. Both feature original exclusive artwork by Sam Gilbey and is now available to order.
Excellent opening 10 minutes which the rest of the film cannot live up to
Action focus means it's zippily paced
Distracting and poor CGI which takes you out of the moment
No reason to care for the characters or their survival