After successfully breathing fresh life into the zombie genre with the live action Train to Busan and the animated prequel Seoul Station, director Yeon Sang-ho expands his undead franchise once again with Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula. Set four years after the events of Train to Busan, the viral outbreak that created hordes of the undead shows no signs of slowing down. Things are so bad that the Korean Peninsula has been forced into quarantine and access to the region is tightly guarded by neighboring countries.
While some individuals, such as former military sergeant Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won), managed to make it out alive, it came via several tragic choices. Many of which still haunt the survivors to this day. Furthermore, creating a new life in Hong Kong has not been pleasant either. With locals ostracizing those from the Peninsula for fear that they may carry the infection, and the government refusing to give survivors refugee status, the only option for work comes in the criminal underworld.
As if working for a crime boss was not already dangerous enough, Jung-seok is selected for a mission that would take him back into the Peninsula. Located on a bridge near the port of Incheon is a truck with 20 million in U.S. dollars. If Jung-seok and his ragtag team can find the truck, and bring it to the port safely, then they will get to share half amongst themselves. Of course, navigating a zombie infested city will be no easy task.
Besides having to move around at night, because zombies are attracted to light and noise, Jung-seok quickly learns that there are still humans living in the region. There are individuals such as Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun), who as karma would have it Jung-seok refused to help at the beginning of the outbreak, and her two daughters, Joon-i (Lee Ra) and Yu-jin (Lee Ye-won), who have found a way to survive both the undead and living threats that roam the land. The latter of which includes an ex-military group known as Unit 631, led by Captain Seo (Koo Gyo-hwan) and Sgt. Hwang (Kim Min-jae), who have literally gone mad as a result of their circumstances.
While Train to Busan explored the themes of redemption and human connection in times of crisis, Peninsula is more interested in the collapse of society. Yeon uses this dystopian premise to greatly up the action set piece this time around. Peninsula is the Mad Max of zombie movies, an action heavy thrill ride. The epic 20-minute climax clearly takes some inspiration from Mad Max: Fury Road. Some of the film’s most unabashedly fun set pieces are found in the CGI heavy chase sequences where Joon-i is behind the wheel.
Peninsula’s story may not be as tightly crafted as its predecessor, as the supporting characters are thinly constructed and the melodrama comes at rather awkward times, but it does satisfy on a sheer entertainment level. Unlike the Terminator franchise which has essentially told the exact same story for six straight film, Yeon Sang-ho continually shows that it is possible to make a series feel fresh with each new installment. Peninsula is not quite on par with Train to Busan, but it proves that this zombie filled franchise is far from dead.