Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula Film Review

 

Photo: Pixabay

With all that has happened in 2020, one thing I did not expect in the slightest was a sequel (sort of) to Train to Busan (2016).  There were a lot of movies that I was really excited to see in 2020 and in reality most of them will be released in 2021 now, Peninsula was something I did not expect and I think it was perfectly timed.  Peninsula feels like a movie that somehow captures how COVID-19 affected us but the movie was made before the pandemic was even something any of us was worried about.  I think Peninsula was a lot of fun but I don't think it is a sequel to Train to Busan.  As far as I can tell no character from Train to Busan appears in Peninsula and the tone of the film is completely different.  Peninsula was written and directed by Sang-Ho Yeon who also wrote and directed Train to Busan, I have not watched or read any interviews but I have to assume he wanted to make a different movie than Train to Busan.  

Four Years Later

Peninsula is set 4 years after Train to Busan but it has a chilling and intense opening featuring our main character Jung Seok (played by Dong-Won Gang) driving his family to a ship leaving Korea at the beginning of the zombie outbreak.  The film then jumps four years later with Jung Seok now in Hong Kong getting recruited to go back to Korea to retrieve a truck containing $20 million dollars.  Obviously getting the money does not go as planned and our main character has to find a way to get home.  The movie has a lot of action and characters that provide some much-needed moments of levity, there is suspense but it is not nearly as intense as Train to Busan.  The un-infected humans can be just as bad and deadly as the zombies like some of the human characters in Train to Busan.  In Peninsula these characters take the form of a group of soldiers that survived the zombie outbreak and are living a very primal existence.  In Train to Busan the human villains were humans just trying to survive that were often only looking after their own survival at the expense of others.  The soldiers in Peninsula are just bored boys that seem to have gone a little crazy, you don't ever hate them or feel sorry for them either.  That apathy towards the "villains" is just one of the things that did not work for me.  The film is also hampered by an ending that felt a little too happy and the tone of the film was less consistent.  In segments, I think the film works incredibly well, specifically the more suspenseful scenes are very effective.  

The main reason why I found Train to Busan fantastic was the relationship between the father and daughter.  Their fight for survival delivered some nail-biting, edge of your seat moments and the suspense was there in Peninsula but the emotional connection just was not as strong.  There are some spoilers I will avoid but the emotional connection was just not as strong and at times I felt I was being manipulated.   There is an action at the tail-end of a very intense sequence and the action scene is built around a car and it is played for laughs  I did find myself laughing and having fun, which is not something I expected going into a sequel to Train to Busan.  The title Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula makes more sense to me now that I have seen the film.  The movie is not a sequel to Train to Busan but rather a movie set in the same universe, like the difference between a Captain America movie and a Guardians of the Galaxy film.  Guardians and Captain America are set in the same cinematic universe however they are very different films.  

The Wrap-Up

Peninsula is a fun, entertaining and at times suspenseful film but it does not live up to Train to Busan.  I find it difficult to hold it against Peninsula that it does not live up to its predecessor, mainly because I don't think it was ever trying to be a Train to Busan sequel.  I have not said a lot about the characters in the film beyond our main character Jung Seok because I feel that might spoil some of the other characters in the film.  I saw this film months ago and it still rattles around in my head, part of that could be the fact that I have not seen a lot of new movies this year, some of it is also that I had a good time watching it.  If I take Train to Busan out of this and I look at Peninsula as a stand-alone movie then I think I would say it is a B to B- or a 7/10.  I think at worst you will watch Peninsula and have a good time, I will warn you that it is not a horror movie or a continuation of the story from Tain to Busan but rather it is it's own film. 

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