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Peninsula – Movie Review

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Peninsula – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Well Go USA

With Train to Busan, director Yeon Sang-ho crafted an exciting take on the zombie genre with its focus on a singular constantly moving location. He has now returned to the brain eaters with Peninsula and created a satisfying follow-up that takes on a more action-heavy approach. However, the sense of community and the desire to see these characters come out alive remains. The shift in direction is actually a smart decision, allowing Sang-ho to explore new dynamics and the ways his protagonists deal with the zombie virus. The four year jump in the timeline presents a look at the effect such devastation can have on a populace.

Sang-ho doesn’t waste too much time establishing the zombie problem and although watching Train to Busan is recommended, it’s not a requirement. Zombies are well established enough in popular culture that filmmakers don’t have to keep explaining the rules behind how they infect people and create entire hordes. The audience already knows that a bite is the last thing that should happen. Sang-ho is able to establish the central character Jung-seok and his own unfortunate experiences with the zombies. Peninsula quickly jumps start the plot and provides a simple, but compelling reason for him to return to South Korea.

The film successfully splits off into two storylines as we see Jung-seok join a family, along with a small community who takes a little too much pleasure in watching zombies run after people. The quieter scenes with the family are effectively directed as Sang-ho uses those quieter moments to develop them. We are also shown how resourceful and smart they’ve become under this new environment, especially the youngest child. There’s a scene involving a remote-controlled car where you wonder why more protagonists in zombie movies don’t utilise this. Meanwhile, the scenes in the walled off community depict a darker side to humanity. Those portions are where Peninsula inserts the social commentary prevalent in many zombie films.

The stand-out performance comes from Kim Min-jae, who portrays a suspicious sergeant. This is a character who Min-jae successfully makes into a despicable figure and it doesn’t take long after his introduction to want to see him meet his comeuppance. While Train to Busan did a brilliant job of building action out of train compartments, Sang-ho takes advantage of the larger space given to the sequel. He opts for a more over-the-top approach to the action with plenty of car chases and weapons firing. While not as tense as its predecessor, the zombies still prove a menace as they lunge towards both the heroes and villains.

Part of what makes a zombie such an intriguing movie monster is the fear that comes from turning into one and the simplicity with which it happens. That’s why horror filmmakers keep returning to them. However, what make Train to Busan and Peninsula work is that Yeon Sang-ho still includes compelling characters at the centre who the audience doesn’t want to see turn into the next zombie. He’s not afraid of adding emotion to these movies, along with commentaries about class and the way human beings respond to a crisis. Peninsula is definitely a fun movie, but there are also aspects under the surface, not unlike the celebrated works of zombie pioneer George A. Romero.

Stefan Ellison