“Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula” Film Analysis – Fails to Outrun it’s Predecessor


Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is the sequel of the 2016 Korean film Train to Busan. If you happen to watch the first franchise of this series, you might be familiar that it deals with Zombies, Lots of Zombies.

Peninsula takes place after 4 years since the bio-hazard accident in the original film, which caused an outbreak of the Zombie in the city of Busan. South Korea has been in a complete quarantine since then. Quarantine, a word we can now totally relate with.

The story of the film revolves around Jung-Seok (Gang Dong-won) who is offered a deal to re-enter the locked down Korean Peninsula in order to excavate money from a truck that carries 20 million dollars. The reward that will be shared equally for a threat of Zombies trailing in the city but when he enters the city, there is a lot more than just zombies running around.

Visually Stealing yet Emotionally Appealing

Zombie movies happen to run on an overused formula that might be the case in the “Peninsula” too, yet the visuals are really appealing throughout the film. Some car chase scenes and Fighting sequences give you Mad Max: Fury Road vibes, though not similarly aesthetic.

However, what makes the Peninsula different from other Zombie movies is its power to grip on the audience’s emotions. The characters might not be so likable as in the first franchise, yet the director knows how to make those weary hearts weep. The last scene of the film is sure going to make some eyes numb. 

Bella Tarr said, “Directing is not a profession: it is rather a kind of sensitivity.”

Peninsula, thus, deals with all those kinds of human sensitivities, be it emotions, or our adaptability to survive in a pandemic. Most importantly, it underlines the importance of Sacrifice we make for our loved ones, which I am sure, is an underrated virtue but it’s all we need right now.

Gang Dong-won as Jung-Seok

In the film, Jung-Seok is a military officer who is transporting his sister, her husband and her young son to safety. When a zombie breakout happens on the boat, Jung’s sister and her son are killed or rather left behind as zombie. This sets the kind of heartbreaks we are going to see in film further. As the film jumps ahead four years. Jung-Seok’s guilt is piling up since he is both devastated and penniless after landing in Hong -Kong. That’s when the local gangster offers him a chance to go back, he finds this as an opportunity to cure his poverty and buy a better living condition for his sister’s husband.  Jung, as he arrives on the Peninsula, deals with nostalgia, as his own past shows up, giving him a chance not to cure his past mistakes.

Through Jung-Seok, the director has tried to explore the threads of human virtues. In the time of a pandemic, most of us are only bothered about our relatives and forget really that each one of us has a “loved one” who deserves to be saved. We need to be more human rather than Selfish. This theme has been emphasized both in the Train to Busan and Peninsula. 

Peninsula tries some of the same emotional beats, yet it doesn’t have the same depth of character in the first film. The father-daughter dynamic in the original gave it teeth that are missing here, and even supporting characters there became engaging. Without spoiling anything, sacrifices in “Train to Busan” had more impact.

Splendid Integration of Breadcrumbs

The screenplay of Peninsula might not have much to offer through it’s dialogues or character arcs, but it sure had some minute screenplay information precisely integrated into the screenplay. These breadcrumbs remain with you throughout the film, and when they explode, you sure remember the scene where they were actually plotted in your mind. It happens in a lot of scenes and it shows that a good screenplay is all about giving only that information that is going to be harnessed in the upcoming scenes.

Remember Chekhov’s Gun which means that

If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.”

The film sure does fire a lot of shots through this method, and a lot of movies lack it these days. Korean Cinema is really working hard on its script, Kudos to Bong Joon-ho.

Train to Busan

The first film in the franchise Train to Busan” was a tight, effective zombie action movie. It gained popularity in the four years since its release, due to an outburst of film list quoting it one of the best Korean movies of this decade, and thanks to an outbreak of streaming services, Non-English films are blooming among Cinephiles at an uncontrollable pace. 

Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan was a clever hybrid of influences, but it worked well because of its focus, centering around human morality and expending most of its energy on a train full of zombies headed for what could be the only safe place on the continent. The film thus keeps its grip intact throughout and is really a recommended film to be watched.

Peninsula – Sequel to Train to Busan could have been able to pull off that same charm if it had been on a ship or something more secluded than a whole city, which really dusts off the conflict entirely.  Perhaps in an effort to stretch his skill set, Yeon goes for a wider canvas in “Peninsula,” and the overall project suffers by simply being nowhere near as taut as its predecessor. 

Sequel to Train to Busan – Peninsula is a 2020 South Korean action horror film directed by Yeon Sang-ho. Peninsula was selected to be shown at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Peninsula is not available on any streaming site right now.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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