Produced by Lee Dong-ha
Written by Park Joo-Suk, Yeon Sang-ho
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho
Starring Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Re
Disappointing, but still worthwhile, follow-up to the masterful Train to Busan. Peninsula starts off with a bang as a group of refugees board a ship to escape the infection in Korea and find safe haven in Japan. The ship is suddenly rerouted to Hong Kong and…uh oh…that guy over there is twitching and wildly arching his back… This opening ten-minute prologue is exciting and emotional and sets a promising tone for the film.
We then cut to Hong Kong four years later and a handful of the surviving refugees are corralled into pulling off a lucrative but extremely dangerous heist: sneak back onto the Korean peninsula where the infection began and find a truck whose payload is bags filled with millions of US dollars.
Of course, this means facing off against hordes of fast-moving, cannibalistic zombies but since the survivors’ cuts would be $2.5 million US each, they decide very quickly it’s worth the risk.
They arrive on the peninsula with relative ease and find the truck surprisingly quickly. Money’s all there, so the plan is working!
As with any heist film (let alone apocalyptic zombie film), things after that don’t go as planned.
One of the survivors is captured by former military who’ve gone collectively mad in the past four years and now entertain themselves by forcing “wild dogs” – arbitrary people they find still alive in the city – to face off against a group of the zombies for two minutes, placing bets on the survivors.
Another of the original gang is saved by a teenage girl (who’s a helluva driver) and her young sister. He’s taken to meet their grandfather and mother.
Our hero recognizes the mother and is awash with guilt…
There’s a lot going on in Peninsula, and I’m definitely recommending it, as it’s fast-paced, gory fun. It’s way more nihilistic than the original Busan, and it feels much more like a conventional zombie than the first one, alas.
Director/co-writer Sang-ho Yeon doesn’t go for the heartstrings this time around, and I must admit I missed that. One of the many things that made Busan so special was the wonderfully emotional moments throughout the film. These were characters you deeply cared about, with believable and affecting backstories and redemptions. The climax actually had me in tears.
This time around, there are efforts made to throw in some emotional substance, but they feel half-hearted. I liked some of these characters, but they didn’t resonate for me. One or two moments after that opening got me a little bit, but no tears were shed.
Also, there are a LOT of car chases in this film and sadly, they’re mostly accomplished with CGI, making much of the film look like a video game.
Still, I was entertained throughout and while my Kleenex remained dry, I do admire the film for taking a different approach in the same playground.