There's a little sliver of doubt that takes root when, on finishing a film you absolutely adored, you go online to see what other people thought and realise you're utterly alone. I'm really surprised by the hatred towards Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula because, with the exception of one scene that I found a bit too melodramatic, I loved every minute of it.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula takes place four years after the zombie virus that decimated South Korea. A guilt-ridden former marine captain Jung-seok (Dong-Won Gang) escaped the horrors on one of the last boats out of South Korea and now lives in Hong Kong where he tries his best to avoid his dead sister's husband Chul-min (Do-Yoon Kim). Avoidance becomes impossible when Jung-seok and Chul-min are recruited to sail back through the blockade to Incheon to retrieve a truck containing $20 million. Accompanied by two other Koreans, the team enters Incheon on a mission that seems far too easy to be true and of course it is.
It was at about this point that the magic starts.
Suddenly alone and believing he's the sole survivor of the team, Jung-seok is surrounded by zombies and very evil men. He is rescued by teenage lady-driver Jooni (Re Lee) and launched into the devastated, post-apocalyptic urban wasteland that Incheon has become. The scene where Jooni tears through the streets is some of the best driving I've seen in years, second only to her baby-driver sister Yu-Jin (Ye-Won Lee) who has to take over when Jooni gets them trapped.
Meanwhile, trouble is brewing across town in an urban warlord's kingdom, conveniently located in an old shopping centre complete with escalators, a natural gladiator's arena and throne room in an old travel shop. While the warlord Captain Seo (Gyo-hwan Koo) plots his glory and his minions place their bets, his own Sergeant Hwang (Min-Jae Kim) is plotting to steal it all out from underneath him.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is an exhilarating ride with non-stop action set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with teenage heroes and shockingly believable villains. It reminded me a lot of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, my favourite film of all time and it's no surprise that I liked it so much. I get why people are disappointed, it's a very different film to Train to Busan with a definite blockbuster feel to it but it ticked so many boxes for me.
As a fan of all things derelict and abandoned, I appreciated the visualisation of devastated Incheon, a city where it's only safe to come out after dark. The zombies themselves are impressive, from the first twitches and signs of fever, followed by the turning and rigour-lead animation. And they are fast too. The Walking Dead is my favourite show but the dead are shamefully slow; I much prefer speedy zombies in this franchise and shows like Black Summer.
Relationships and loyalty are key in Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, as is the notion of the crippling effects of fear and trauma, leading inevitably to death or redemption. I had no idea what to expect as that boat departed Hong Kong for the blockade but was thrilled by a full house of cinematic enjoyment - fear and exhilaration, story and emotions, heaps of gore and a killer set, a lot of humour and tons of tears, and some very interesting moral choices. Yes, there was one scene right at the end which made me roll my eyes at the sappiness of it all, but overall it was brilliant.
I suspect it's going to be the Marmite of the Busan franchise but I give Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula a superb five out of five stars and recommend to all fans of the zombie apocalypse.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula will be available on digital from 23 November and DVD and Blu-Ray from 30 November, for which pre-orders are now live here (affiliate link) and will also include the limited edition HMV Exclusive First Edition and Train to Busan Trilogy Blu-ray Boxset. All formats will come with the Peninsula: Making Of featurettes – The Action; The Characters; The Director; and The Sequel.
A limited edition Peninsula Blu-ray SteelBook will also be released alongside a brand new Zavvi exclusive double Blu-ray SteelBook for Train to Busan & Seoul Station. Both feature original exclusive artwork by Sam Gilbey.