Peninsula

Vampire Owl: So, we do have the return of the zombies after a long time.

Vampire Bat: Well, Train to Busan always deserved a sequel.

Vampire Owl: We remember that it was the one movie which took us to Korea.

Vampire Bat: It led to our first Korean films on Movies of the Soul.

Vampire Owl: I remember that there are many other films which followed.

Vampire Bat: That was our entry into South Korean movies.

Vampire Owl: Only to have movies in many other languages follow.

Vampire Bat: South Korea should be among our dream nations too.

Vampire Owl: As far as Asian nations are concerned, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be.

Vampire Bat: Yes, we have visited only Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia in the east so far.

[Gets a marble cake and three cups of mixed tea].

What is the movie about? :: As a zombie outbreak occurs in South Korea, nobody has any clue about how it started, even though a particular bio-facility is suspected, and there is also no idea about how to contain it. There was pandemonium breaking loose in South Korea though, as people were believing in rumours circulating online, and traveling to safe areas further south – in the end, no place was safe, except for, maybe North Korea. As Captain Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) of South Korean Marine Corps drives his family to safety, he ignores everyone seeking help on the way, suspecting that they could all be infected. But the infection has also spread in the ship, and more and more people are transformed into the zombie-like state. His nephew and sister are among the people who are bitten and lost to the disease. As they are re-routed to Hong Kong, while the world nations try to quarantine South Korea in whichever ways possible.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: South Korean refugees were no longer accepted in other countries, and the quarantine continued for four years, without any break in between. Later in Hong Kong, Jung-seok and his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon) are recruited by some Chinese gangsters for a mission which includes retrieving a truck containing millions of dollars from South Korea. They would be paid half of the money if they come back with it alive. As they are certain that they won’t be given refugee status, and are going to be discriminated, they decide to take the offer. They go in at night hoping that they can stay undetected from zombies and most of the ships patrolling the peninsula, and for others, they can pay cash. With the help of the gangsters and their influence, they manage to get there and also find the truck, following it up with the murder of the zombie driver. But this mission won’t be that easy as they thought, as there is something else.

The defence of Peninsula :: Train to Busan was a favourite, and as Peninsula maintains the same spirit up to an extent, we can say that there is enough around here too – the focus on action would be the big change around here. The setting of the post-apocalyptic South Korea is also worth seeing with some fine visual quality. The devastated city is a scene to remember at night as well as the day. The film offers a lot of zombie action as expected, and the fighting sequences happen naturally, as it has always happened with Resident Evil and its sequels, even though this is a more believable one in comparison. The zombies remain as good as they were, even though the attention is less on them this time in comparison to the first film. Well, the world has changed, and we are into another environment now. There is enough action, and some emotions to be added here, and things work well. It is an interesting, thrilling ride from the beginning to the end.

The claws of flaw :: Peninsula wouldn’t get the appreciation that Train to Busan had gathered long ago, as there is not that much innovation being added here. It could have been stronger with the continuation of the original tale. We know that there is a lot that can get added to a post-apocalyptic world, much more than what is seen here. With all the vehicular mayhem that goes on in the end, things do get a little confusing with so much of fights between everyone. The graphics goes closer to a video game than the live action movie at times. It was surely built for the big screen, no doubt about that. The inspiration from other similar post-apocalyptic films to create this particular world cannot be ignored either. The possible messages about selfishness and sacrifice are mostly not there to stay, and are often lost. The focus on the story is not that much maintained when providing too many zombies to kill on the road.

Performers of the soul :: The cast here is led by Gang Dong-won, who manages to stay ahead with ease. He has his moments from the beginning stages itself, mostly emotional, even though that changes later. Lee Jung-hyun is the next one to catch our attention, as she plays the strong mother who has had to make some tough decisions, and lives with a purpose for her children. She goes strong with the emotional side, and becomes part of the big action very soon too. Kwon Hae-hyo adds a funny side at the same time too. Kim Do-yoon plays the brother-in-law role in a believable manner. Lee Re gets a lot of action with the vehicular mayhem, and its a glorious drive through the zombies as far as she is concerned. Those scenes could be taken right into a video game at some point. Lee Ye-won plays the young child in an interesting role. Kim Min-jae and Koo Kyo-hwan plays the two major antagonists, and they do the job well enough. Kim Kyu-baek also adds some humour here.

How it finishes :: We have waited for very long to have a sequel to Train to Busan, and here we have it – that film along with The Wailing are the two first Korean movies which I had reviewed, and that was indeed a game changing moment, the next Korean film reviewed being The Divine Fury coming much later. When Peninsula makes sure that the same zombie feeling returns, there is the similar feeling. We get to see the zombies in Korea yet again, and during the time of Corona virus pandemic, we are seeing the viral apocalypse again. It does feel different when we look at it now, after going through the COVID-19 pandemic, and seeing the viral outbreak unfold before our eyes. The movie continues the journey through the world of zombies in a way that keeps us interested, and I would recommend this film for all fans of the first one too. After all, what is better than a group of fully powered zombies in this world of quarantines and lock-downs? Especially when they come with so much of action on the streets. Well, zombies are forever too, just like vampires and werewolves.

Release date: 15th July 2020
Running time: 116 minutes
Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho
Starring: Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Re, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-jae, Koo Kyo-hwan, Kim Do-yoon, Lee Ye-won, Jang So-yeon, Moon Woo-jin, Kim Kyu-baek, Bella Rahim

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Battle of Jangsari

Vampire Owl: I hope that it would be like the battle we had with the zombies.

Vampire Bat: We had a battle with the zombies last year?

Vampire Owl: Yes, the one which was fought near the meeting point of two rivers.

Vampire Bat: Wan’t that a battle with the werewolves?

Vampire Owl: Yes, they looked like wolves, but technically, they were zombies.

Vampire Bat: I do not understand the idea which you are talking about.

Vampire Owl: See, these werewolves were bitten by zombies. Therefore, the are former werewolves who are now zombies.

Vampire Bat: So, you are taking out the werewolf qualities out of them, and saying that the zombie characteristics will takeover.

Vampire Owl: Yes, if you are bitten by an undead, you are no longer alive. The werewolves will acquire the qualities of the undead which bit them.

Vampire Bat: Okay, I guess the only problem will be if a werewolf is bitten by a zombie and a vampire. One has to wonder which characteristics will be taken by the wolf.

[Gets a chocolate cake and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie’s background about? :: As the Second World War ended, the Allies lead by the Soviet Union and the United States of America liberated Korea from Japanese control, days after the dropping of atom bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With two major powers set to on a Cold War for many years after the defeat of Germany and Italy as well as the weakening of Great Britain and France due to war, Korea was divided into two zones of occupation, as the Soviets were in control of the northern half while the Americans administered the southern half. As different governments having exactly opposite ideologies were established on both sides, there was continuous tension, and each group proclaimed ownership of the whole of Korean peninsula, but didn’t launch a full-scale attack until then. But on the 25th of June, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea, it had marked the beginning of the Korean War, fought completely in the Korean peninsula.

So, what happens with the events here? :: North Korea, had the support of the major Communist nations of China and the Soviet Union while South Korea, had the support of the United States of America and its allies. The United Nations Security Council itself had approved the sending troops in support of South Korea against what was a full scale military invasion without provocation. A total of twenty one nations are supposed to have provided support to the United Nations defence of South Korea, but United States of America was the leader with ninety percent of the troops provided for the purpose. After the first two months of war, South Korean Army and the United States forces Korea were almost defeated. But in September 1950, an sea-based United Nations counter-offensive was to be launched at Incheon, to cut off many North Korean troops in South Korea. A group of seven hundred and seventy two student soldiers has the task of staging a diversionary mission at Jangsari Beach in South Korea.

And, what is to follow here, as this is war, and a case of final defence for the South Koreans :: This particular attempt at landing would trick the the North Korean forces into thinking that the opposition forces would be soon launching a decisive invasion there would distract the North Koreans from Incheon. But the waves are very high and there is a shortage of landing boats. The student soldiers have no idea what they are doing, and the only thing they has done since getting into the ship, is vomitting. This seems to be a strange and impossible mission on the beach for the students who are trained at nothing except a little boot camp time, while highly trained North Korean defence await on the shores. Can they succeed in this, or will they at least dare to try, as North Korea is very close to making its dreams of one Korean peninsula under them? How long can the South’s resistance at the Nakdong River in the southernmost region stand, and how good is the United Nations in stopping this?

The defence of The Battle of Jangsari :: As you might have expected, there is war written on it right from the beginning, as far as The Battle of Jangsari is concerned. With a thunderstorm seemingly around, we know that there will be no smooth sailing in the movie for the troops, and it is certainly a kind of foreshadowing. The movie is full of some nicely worked out scenes of war, with battle tanks, guns and landmines never ceasing to come up on the screen, as one battle follows the other. There are also those emotional sequences, as some of the soldiers even have a tale to tell, and we also come to know that this is a hopeless situation, from where an escape seems to be too distant. The area where the battles are fought is perfect to provide those nice visuals too. The performances are all good, especially considering the fact that we have a young cast here. Lee Ho-Jung plays the only female among the soldiers, and she does a fine job too.

The claws of flaw :: With a premise and an idea like this, the movie could have achieved a lot more for sure. As it gets near the end, things begin to get more and more predictable, even though there is no certainty about who all will be the ones to survive. The battles could have been more, and we needed to see more of the battles happening in other parts of Korea, at least as a quick reminder. Megan Fox’s character is underused, and there is not much being done to create a change there. The movie also suffers from the absence of female characters, both on the battlefield, and also outside. With Megan around, there could have been more, maybe even with the help of a flashback that goes far behind before the North Korean invasion started. For someone who is coming from outside countries like Korea, Russia, United States of America, Japan, United Kingdom and China, maybe people could use a little bit more of information on this war which hasn’t been known much at this part of the world.

How it finishes :: As far as The Battle of Jangsari as a war movie is concerned, there was lot more to be taken, but it doesn’t do that. It is still a fine film with a forgotten episode of war, which will always be something of interest. As we are not that familiar with this particular war in comparison to the World Wars and the Cold War, this could a fine new experience for us, as the Korean perspective only becomes more interesting. The war with some extraordinary deeds of courage, and an emotional touch which keeps getting stronger towards the end, makes The Battle of Jangsari a movie which needs to be watched. As we take a look at a movie on Korean War which might be the first film most us around here watch based on a war from that side, this might be a war movie you will recommend to many others. After all, there is some history around here, and most of the war movies teach you that, mostly from one side of the battling nations. They have surely kept this one simple and enjoyable.

Release date: 25th September 2019
Running time: 103 minutes
Directed by: Kwak Kyung-taek, Kim Tae-hoon
Starring: Kim Myung-min, Megan Fox, Choi Min-ho, Kim Sung-cheol, Kim In-kwon, Kwak Si-yang, Jang Ji-Gun, Lee Ho-Jung, Lee Jae-wook, Dong Bang-Woo, George Eads, Jeong Jong-Jun, Kim Min-Kyu

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.