Streaming Review

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula review – sequel derails the franchise

Yeon Sang-ho’s latest zombie yarn lacks the profound themes and intricate set pieces that made the previous entries so memorable

Blending complex moral issues with an innovative visual style, Korean filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho’s Seoul Station and Train to Busan depicted a fractured world in which human beings were still inclined to look out for one another – even at the height of a zombie invasion. Inevitably with box office success, trilogies are born, and so Peninsular – set four years after the events of Busan – returns to this world with a new set of characters and a greater production scale.

Following an undead outbreak, Marine Jung-Seok (Gang Dong-won) and his brother-in-law, Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon) are their family's only surviving members. After making the perilous journey from South Korea to Hong Kong, they now live on the city streets and get by on very little, though the two are offered a way out of this miserable life thanks to Jung-Seok’s connections to the criminal underworld.

Their task is to sneak back to their homeland and secure a truckload of money that was left behind during the exodus of the country. When things go wrong, though, the two quickly discover there is still life left in a small community of survivors whose leader seeks to use their payload for his own creed.

Upon returning to Korea, the film depicts familiar vistas of post-apocalyptic landscapes: burning cars, deserted houses, nature overgrown. The action unfolds with a preference towards vast sound stages and an emphasis on CGI over practical effects, the result of which means that Yeon Sang-ho’s film opts for a more rudimentary action cinema template over the more character-orientated antics of either Seoul Station or Train to Busan.

The streets of this broken world quickly lose all sense of terror, despite being filled with hordes of zombies, as the film puts more of a focus on flying or drifting cars. One specific introductory sequence involving two child characters feels like a re-creation of the Need for Speed video game, but lacks any real artistry or originality. Elsewhere, character development is hampered, falling into cliches we've seen countless times before, such as the self-sacrificing protagonist.

The video game nurture does lead to an absurd ending that owes much to the choreography of George Miller’s Mad Max films, but the heavy reliance on CGI vehicles also creates a sequence lacking any sense of emotion or narrative weight – computerised spectacle, nothing more. Completing an uneven trilogy of films, Yeon Sang-ho’s latest instalment lacks the profound themes and intricate set pieces that made the previous entries so memorable.

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is now available as a digital download.

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