4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1&2) Jung-hyun Lee as Min Jung and Dong-Won Gang as former Marine Captain Jung Seok attempt to escape zombie revenants that have overrun the Korean Peninsula.
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“TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS: PENINSULA”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD; 2020; Not Rated, contains graphic violence, gore, frightening and intense scenes/images, sexual image, profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: Four-part making-of with director/co-writer Sang-ho Yeon, and actors Dong-Won Gang (Jung Seok), Jung-hyun Lee (Min Jung) and Re Lee (Jooni)
THE FOLLOW-UP to 2016’s celebrated Korean horror film, “Train to Busan” by co-writer/director Sang-ho Yeon, delivers an outstanding 4K Ultra HD print and Dolby Atmos soundtrack in “Peninsula.”
“Train to Busan” captured the imagination and hearts of an international audience of viewers, even those who never liked horror movies. “I’ve never cried at the end of a horror film, but I cried for ‘Train to Busan,’” one viewer said. It was easy to become emotionally involved in the story of a father, his little daughter, and a train-load of passengers trying to escape the onslaught of a zombie plague. Infection takes only seconds, and asylum becomes more and more impossible during a wild, whiplash ride of death and hope.
“Peninsula” takes place four years later, and finds Korea completely isolated. Countries will not accept refugees and all rescue attempts have ceased. The Peninsula is populated by hordes of creatures and a handful of helpless survivors, most gone mad. It’s not much better for the refugees who escaped to Hong Kong, who now live day-to-day in horrific slums run by predators and thugs.
(1) As citizens evacuate South Korea, Min Jung pleads with Jung Seok to save her children. (2) Thousands flee on a ship destined for Japan. It is eventually diverted to Hong Kong. (3&4) Catastrophe happens when one of the infected is found among the evacuees. (5) Jung Seok is only able to save his brother-in-law, Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon) when revenants begin to overrun the ship. Chul-min's wife and young son are killed.
This is a starkly different world from “Train to Busan,” which occurred during bright daylight. “Peninsula” unfolds at night, but thanks to brilliant cinematography by Hyung-deok Lee, who also shot “Busan,” exteriors and interiors are fiercely defined and visible to viewers. (Remember how we lost the picture and were left with voices and effects during the final season of "Game of Thrones" as well as other films and series? Not here.) Contrast is exceptional in 1080p and even better in 2160p with its HDR10 toning. It’s not possible to be disappointed in this picture.
What ties "Busan" and "Peninsula" together is the sense of hope running throughout. “Busan’s” characters race to evade infection and death, and to find sanctuary. So do the survivors in “Peninsula,” and under worse circumstances. Former Marine Captain Jung Seok and his brother-in-law Chul-min, played by Kim Do-yoon, are hired along with two others to retrieve an abandoned truck loaded with millions of U.S. dollars on the South Korean Peninsula. (Pay attention to Yeon-hee Hwang, the taxi driver; she’s a knockout and I wish we had more of her character.) The guilt-ridden Jung Seok and Chul-min have been clinging to life in China after their traumatic escape. The reward for getting the truck to Incheon promises a better life even if it’s hard to trust this pack of gangsters.
What follows is a mix of “Escape from New York,” “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” and “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” in 116 minutes. The action is non-stop, and the stunts and driving extreme, with Greg Nicotero-class zombie creations running amuck. Jung Seok meets a family of survivors; a mother, her two daughters, and a grandfather suffering from dementia. Chul-min – and the truck – fall into the clutches of Sergeant Hwang (Kim Min-jae), homicidal leader of a gang of ex-militia. Captain Seo (Koo Kyo-hwan) remains technically in command, but he and his aide are barely holding on.
What we get in thrills and action, we lose in the more detailed characterization found in “Train to Busan” and that’s too bad. Still, we like Jung Seok and the family, and want the best for them – just as we want extreme justice for the bad guys.
(1) Hong Kong gangsters persuade Jung Seok, Chul-min and two others to return to the Peninsula to collect a truckload of American dollars for a hefty reward. (2-5) Jung Seok and the team find the truck, but are overrun by a horde and chased by a group of crazed militants.
Well Go USA delivers another first-rate picture and sound presentation on disc with “Peninsula.” It exceeds the well-received “Ip Man” films and “The Legend of Tomiris.” As noted, whether in 1080p or 2160p, viewers will enjoy what they see. Captured on Arri Alexa cameras at 2.8K, it was finished in 2K at a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The 4K presentation was upgraded for Dolby Vision and HDR10. Bold and subtle colors pop on the screen from Hong Kong’s neon lights, Peninsula flares and blinding white-lights used in pursuits, to clothing, interiors and complexions. Complexions are natural, with faces pitted, lined, sweaty and filthy.
As noted, contrast is terrific, and detail sharp in close-up and wide shots, whether they’re interior or exterior scenes. It is so fantastic not to have scenes dissolve to shadowy darkness. There’s a particularly awesome effects-shot of a glass-tunnel overpass soon after the adventurers arrive in Korea. You’ll know it when you see it. The "monster" creature in the fight arena is genuinely horrific.
This is the most enjoyable soundtrack I’ve heard in a long while. The best choice is the Korean eight-channel Dolby True HD Atmos with English or Full English subtitles. After a test to discover the difference, we chose “Full English,” which provides subtitles for all speaking characters including the Americans. Note, western character dialogue is brief, but has none of the extreme, cringe-inducing mannerisms found in, say, the “Ip Man” films.
We would have enjoyed more frequent use of ceiling speakers, but liked what we got. We thoroughly enjoyed the overall balance of dialogue, effects and score. They are artfully delivered, with clear dialogue (we don't speak Korean, but enjoy the emotional impact of the original language) and full, dynamic bass. It didn’t blast us, or our neighbors, out of the building unless we cranked that volume up. Moog composed the score.
(1) Separated from his brother-in-law, Jung Seok is rescued by Jooni (Re Lee) Min Jung's oldest daughter and her little sister, Yu-jin (played by Ye-Won Lee, not pictured). (2&3) Chul-min is captured by Unit 631, a band of renegade soldiers led by Sergeant Hwang (Kim Min-jae, not pictured). He is forced to participate in bloody human vs. zombie battles.
Bonus features are found only on the Blu-ray in the two-disc, 4K presentation. An EPK making-of feature is broken into four parts: “The Sequel,” “The Action,” “The Director,” and “The Characters.” Together, they’re eight-plus minutes long and provide only general information. Director/co-writer Sang-ho Yeon, and actors Dong-Won Gang (Jung Seok), Jung-hyun Lee (Min Jung) and Re Lee (Jooni) appear to have stepped right off the set of a grueling scene.
Well Go USA also provides trailers for “Peninsula” and for some intriguing, upcoming films.
Granted, our expectations were high for this sequel. Probably too high since we all know, with few exceptions, follow-up films rarely meet or excel the first. But don’t let that get in the way of enjoying a good action-horror flick. “Train to Busan presents: Peninsula” is a keeper!
— Kay Reynolds
(1) Min Jung and her family try to escape the Peninsula, but members become seriously wounded. (2-5) Prepared to sacrifice herself, a crippled Min Jung is determined her daughters get to safety.