My notes on Bando (Train to Busan Presents Peninsula).
This previewis in UK cinemas on Halloween and opens on November 6 – before arriving on digital platforms November 30.
Effectively the third in its zombie series – before Train to Busan, Yeon Sang-ho made the animated Seoul Station which sets off the zombie outbreak in Korea – this looks perhaps knowingly to other up-the-scale zombie/apocalypse sequels, with particular reference to 28 weeks later, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Land of the Dead.
All three films are about adults trying to rescue children, with a range of interpretations of the theme. Here, army officer Han Jung-seok (Dong-Won Gang) does his best to help his sister’s family get out of a South Korea that has fallen in a single day to a fast-acting zombie virus. On the road, he hardens his heart when distressed Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyung) tries to get him to take her infant daughter onto an evacuation boat – a trip that turns disastrous because (of course) an infectee gets through and triggers a mini-outbreak. Four years later, Jung-seok and his brother-in law Chul-min are scrabbling as refugees in Hong Kong and get recruited by criminals to join a small extraction team to be sent into the zombie-infested ruins of Incheon Port and retrieve a fortune in US dollars from a stalled armoured car. Of course, it doesn’t go smoothly – Chul-min finds himself in a cage arena fighting zombies in a typical Mad Maxy hell community of feral soldiers, while Jung-seok runs into Min-jung again, finding her surviving with the aid of her ingenious daughters and a mad old grandpa (Kwon Hae-yo).
Peninsula is at once the least twisted and most expansive of the series. It boldly takes a different direction after teasing the possibility that this will just be a zoms-on-a-boat follow-up to the zoms-on-a-train scenario. The infected are just background noise here, with a Romero-like focus on the guilty and innocent survivors making lives for themelves in the overgrown ruins. Some of its set-pieces are overfamiliar – in the early 1980s, I saw a set of specs from a very low-rent comic book publisher which prohibited gladiatorial arenas on the grounds that they’d been done to death and that situation hasn’t improved – but Yeon has a Fast & Furious knack for over-the-top action scenes which cuts loose here in a lot of chase sequences. Performances are on the functional side, though Gang manages to convey how much of a hollow man survival has made him, and Kim Min-jae and Koo Gyo-hwan deliver contrasting slices of ham as the mad sergeant who is worse than the zombies and the hypocritical major who plots atrocities but swears that once he escapes Korea he’ll live an exceptionally honourable life.
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