A sequel to the South Korean zombie film Train to Busan, Peninsula is set four years after the events of the initial outbreak and follows a new cast. Jung-seok (Gang Dong-Won), an ex-military and survivor of the outbreak, and his brother-in-law, Chul-min (Kim Do-Yoon) are treated as second class citizens after escaping the now quarantined South Korea and flee to Hong Kong. Wanting to change his life, Chul-min decides to take a deal with a Chinese gang in order to acquire millions of dollars. The catch is that the money is in a truck that is stuck in the now apocalyptic South Korea. Worried about Chul-min’s safety, Jung-seok joins him and his squad to get the money. Intent on surviving the hell that awaits them, they must fight both zombies and the psychotic survivors of South Korea in order to get their money and leave.
Directed by Yeon Sang-Ho, Peninsula showcases the pain of the survivors of the outbreak and the manner in which they handle their pandemic. As we endure the reality of a global pandemic ourselves, this movie couldn’t have been timed better either. As they fight to survives, selfish human behaviour is fully on display. For example, in the beginning of Peninsula, as Jung-seok leaves South Korea, he abandons both a family begging for help and his elder sister and child in order to save himself. Considering himself a good man, Jung-seok tries to convince himself that he did all he could under the circumstances. Survivors hoard food. Factions divide the population.
While the film was completed far before the global pandemic, actions such as these mirror the self-justifications that we have seen in real life. For example, when faced with the outbreak of COVID-19, people raided grocery stores took as much as they could for themselves and their family with no regard for others. Even now, as the current pandemic has slowed, people are refusing to wear masks as they value their own comfort than the lives of others.
In an ironic twist, while on his mission in South Korea, Jung-seok encounters a horde of zombies and is rescued by the very same people that he abandoned four years earlier. Faced with his own selfishness, Jung-seok has a chance to do all that he can to help them. As the film goes on, the classic opportunity for redemption arises and Jung-seok must decide whether or not he will attempt to pay back the very survivors that he had left for dead in the first place.
I loved Peninsula. Director Yeon Sang-ho creates a truly immersive apocalyptic world. There’s lots of great shots of the destroyed South Korea that show the audience the vastness of the destruction, and how South Korea has fallen as a country. This is especially true within the set design of 631 unit’s compound, which creates a realistic—and horrifying—area for survivors. Throughout the film, there was never a moment where the film feels unrealistic in tone, and the CGI moments are well-implemented.
While the zombie theme has become a common in recent years, I personally think Peninsula is one of the few films that gives the genre new life. Peninsula handles its narrative extremely well and, through no fault of its own, is also timed perfectly, considering the current global situation. Through Jung-seon’s journey, we see that human selfishness and greed lead to nothing but misery to those involved. Peninsula understands that, by working together, we are able to get through hell which, frankly, is something we need to hear during the very real pandemic that we find ourselves in today.
Peninsula is in select theatres across Canada on Friday, August 7th, 2020.