FILM REVIEW: TRAIN TO BUSCAN PRESENTS: PENINSULA - "Genre Revamp"
In 2016, Sang-ho Yeon introduced us to his vision of a zombie outbreak with the film, TRAIN TO BUSCAN - a film which garnered much acclaim thanks to its unexpected tale of familial reconciliation housed in a freaky, suspenseful package. Now, 4 years later, Park is back with a follow-up to his wildly successful film with its sequel subtitled as PENINSULA. So the question becomes, is it better than the original? Well, read on and find out...
When we last left the plague-stricken, zombie-ridden world of BUSCAN we saw the film's protagonist sacrifice himself for the sake of saving his daughter - providing some sense of optimism that that there was some light "at the end of the tunnel." So have things improved in the world since then? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that a "Noah's Ark" of sorts has been developed to transport survivors to "sanctuary" in North Korea. No, in that the virus is still continuing to spread rapidly throughout South Korea - a fact which is clearly prevalent as we're introduced to new family in route to the aforementioned "ark" just mentioned. Led by Jung Seok (Dong-Won Gang), the family (which includes his brother-in-law, his sister, & his nephew), are seen avoiding other doomed families on their race to the boat (a choice which will come to haunt Jung later). Though Jung & Co. make it their destination, the virus finds its way there - eradicating nearly everyone on the boat including Jung's sister & nephew.
It is this moment which sets up what becomes the main arch of the sequel's plot: Jung's story of redemption. Thanks to the plot device of a money heist, grief-stricken Jung, now residing in the refugee hub of Hong Kong with his brother in law (Kim Do-yoon), is reluctantly is forced back into action and is not only confronted with his choice (to avoid families in need of help) from earlier, but is also provided with the opportunity to "save" a pseudo family unit, led by Lee Jung-Hyun's Ming-Jung, that he previously failed to "save" (in the form of his own family) before.
This relatable theme of family at the center of the original film again works here because it grounds the film and provides stakes in a film that would otherwise just be a crazy, endlessly set of action sequences...Which is not necessarily a bad thing, by the way. On the contrary, Yeon's choice to follow the James Cameron playbook (see ALIENS) by following up his highly successful claustrophobic horror film with an over the top action film was a good move here as the film boasts some truly impressive gun play & car chase sequences! The only true gripe I have with the film was the contrived way in which Jung was forced back into action to kick the story into gear.
All in all, PENINSULA is a nice follow up to the original that, despite a basic plot device & genre shift, keeps most what worked in the original (i.e. familial relationships, gore, etc.) intact.
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