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Blu-ray Review: Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula

November 24, 2020

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The 2016 South Korean zombie movie Train to Busan is an incredible exercise in genre cinema, a tight, suspenseful thrill ride that unfolds mostly on a train and almost entirely in real time. Seriously, it’s a great action film, and one that I would highly recommend.

Now, director Yeon Sang-ho has returned with a sequel, titled Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula. That title alone tells you something crucial about this followup to his 2016 film; this isn’t a direct sequel, as much as it is another film set in the same world. But like a lot of sequels, Peninsula struggles to fully live up to its predecessor, despite often being perfectly fine in its own right.

The film begins directly following the events of the first one, with South Korea in the midst of being decimated by the zombie apocalypse. Marine Captain Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) is driving his family to a ship that will take them to safety. He passes a young mother, Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun), begging for help. Jung-seok declines, but take note, as she will become a key character later on. A tense opening sequence follows in the cabin of the ship, and Peninsula then jumps ahead a full four years.

Jung-seok is now settled in Hong Kong with his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon), still feeling guilt over what happened on that ship. Jung-seok and Chul-min are then hired by Chinese mafia to return to the Korean Peninsula and retrieve a truck filled with millions of dollars. It’s here that Jung-seok re-encounters the mother that he left on the side of the road, who has become a survivalist with her two daughters (Lee Re and Lee Ye-won), while Chul-min gets caught up with a militia group running an underground fight club pitting humans against zombies

None of this really connects back to the first film, and in terms of being a sequel, Peninsula is essentially just an action movie with a completely new cast of characters that happens to be set in the same universe as Train to Busan. Where as the first film felt very contained, this one expands the world, offering more exposition about the scale and nature of the zombie outbreak, with a slightly longer timeframe and more characters and subplots to keep track of.

Filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho does still stage some solid action set-pieces throughout Peninsula, including that aforementioned sequence on the ship, which is maybe the best scene in the movie. There are also some exciting car chases, including a wild one involving Min-jung’s daughters that strains credibility but sure is fun to watch. But the film also starts to feel somewhat derivative after a while, and never really establishes a strong enough emotional connection to its characters.

I actually watched Train to Busan for the first time last week, right before putting on this sequel for review, and I think I might have enjoyed this one more if I hadn’t literally just watched the original right before it, with barely an hour between them. One of the most noticeable aesthetic differences between the two is that the first took place mostly in broad daylight, where as this one unfolds predominantly at night, giving it a dark and grimy post-apocalyptic look.

The first film had better defined characters, a more focused story, a superior sense of suspense, and a much stronger emotional pull. This one feels more like a typical zombie action movie. It’s still a pretty good one, mind you, and I do think that Peninsula is worth a look for fans of Train to Busan, but it also lacks much of the spark that made the original stand out.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray set comes with a regular DVD of the film, along with a selection of brief featurettes (which combine clips from a junket-style interview with director Yeon and cast members Lee Jung-hyun and Lee Re playing over scenes from the film) and a pair of trailers. These are the same sort of bonuses that are found on most Well Go USA releases, and per usual are all set to play consecutively.

Making Of and Interviews (8 minutes, 47 seconds)

The Sequel (1 minute, 43 seconds)

The Action (2 minutes, 31 seconds)

The Director (1 minute, 29 seconds)

The Characters (3 minutes, 4 seconds)

Teaser (1 minute, 35 seconds)

Trailer (1 minute, 55 seconds)

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is a Well Go USA release. It’s 116 minutes and not rated.

Street Date: November 24th, 2020

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