It’s been almost a month since movie theatres in Singapore were allowed to reopen on July 13 and the first movie I watched was the blockbuster Train to Busan: Peninsula. It was first to welcome movie-goers back to the cinemas when it premiered on July 15.
I was really excited to watch the sequel to 2016’s Train To Busan as I remembered weeping buckets when I watched it, twice! The original not only entertained me with apocalyptic action and zombie horror, it left me disappointed in the ugly side of humanity. Popcorn flick aside, I also reflected on what I would have done if I were put in any intense life-threatening situation that can rob any person of the ability to think, much less empathise.
It left such a huge impression on me that I couldn’t wait to watch Peninsula when I heard it was coming out. Another reason for my eagerness to catch it is because an over-the-top blockbuster movie is perfect for a return to the cinemas. No more Netflix Party for me!
I don’t know about the only other couple in the cinema with me watching the movie at the time, but I must say I am a little disappointed with the sequel. There weren’t many emotional scenes and the zombie attacks were also not as intense to leave me holding my breath like how I did in the first movie.
However, what I took away was a celebration of the human spirit that everyone can learn from. This makes it a particularly apt movie during this pandemic. Here are my three takeaways (oh, and spoiler alert!):
What goes around comes around
In the introduction, Jung Seok (played by Gang Dong-Won), a Korean Marine captain, is driving his elder sister, her husband and his nephew to a ship to leave South Korea in order to escape the zombie outbreak. Along the way, he ignores a mother’s (Min-Jung, played by Lee Jung-Hyun) plea to take her young child with him.
Jung Seok escapes Korea on the ship, but not without tragic consequences. Fast forward four years, and he gets a chance to return to the Korean peninsula, which is now totally overrun with zombies and quarantined from the rest of the world (sounds Covid familiar?).
His mission, to retrieve a MacGuffin of a truck filled with money, goes awry and he ends up fleeing from hordes of zombies. In the nick of time, he gets saved by a young girl with fast and furious driving skills and it turns out that she is part of the family that he ignored four years ago.
Jung Seok, who has become bitter, solitary and selfish following his escape, is forced to admit that he needs help from others. He is especially guilt-stricken when he sees that the precious lives he rejected have grown to become capable and compassionate children, ready to save the world.
In times of crisis, we should seek to be kind. A helping hand rendered to someone in need is greatly appreciated and definitely goes a long way. We never know when it is that we may need someone else’s help but let’s be reminded to help as much as we can within our abilities.
You are not a failure until you fail to try
Throughout the movie, two characters show us how not to give up and fight till the very end.
Jung Seok’s brother-in-law Chul-min gets captured by feral Korean survivors and made to fight the zombies in a caged compound. He is a cowardly man but he did not give up fighting for his life till the very end. In the midst of an intense gun showdown, he sacrifices his life to grab a rifle lying on the floor to save Jung Seok from being bitten by a zombie.
Most of the final action-packed third of the movie is on how Jung Seok and the family try to stay one step ahead of the zombie horde and feral Korean survivors. But for me, the final scene was the most touching where we see how hard Min-jung’s elder daughter pleads – to the extent of threatening them! – with their rescuers to go back for her mother, who is wounded and left behind.
Her perseverance pays off as Jung Seok takes the leap of faith and risks his life to save Min-jung. This also shows how Jung Seok has grown through the kindness he receives from the family and the sacrifice of his brother-in-law, who in the past had accused him for not trying to do his best and giving up too easily.
We may not be able to predict the outcome in everything we do in life, but it is knowing that we have given our best fight till the end and thus having no regrets that bring us joy and satisfaction in having lived our lives well.
Have trust and reach out when in need
When we meet him, the family’s grandpa, Elder Kim (played by Kwon Hae-Hyo) is talking to a United Nations soldier, Major Jane, on the radio to report on the family’s whereabouts, with hopes that they will be rescued.
Although the other family members may have their doubts (and so do we as the audience!) about his sanity, Elder Kim never doubts that Major Jane would save the family. His faith pays off in the end as it was a UN rescue helicopter that helps the family escape the peninsula.
We may sometimes hesitate to ask for help and probably only trust ourselves to solve a problem. But we need to have the humility to recognise that all of us are interconnected and we all need help and support from the community around us.
The more we trust in one another, the more respect we give to each other and the closer we work towards building a stronger nation. Let us not isolate ourselves and instead let the kampung spirit live on.