Train to Busan

Seok-Woo (Yoo Gong) is a busy hedge fund manager who thinks mainly of himself, and his success. He’s pushed away his wife, who has left him, and he’s letting his mother raise his young daughter, Soo-an (Soo-an Kim). When a Wii fails to impress Soo-an for her birthday, Seok-Woo reluctantly agrees to take her on a trip to visit her mother. They board a trail from Seoul to Busan, and their timing is impeccable (although, to be honest, I’m still not 100% if it was impeccably good or impeccably bad. You decide). Just as their train is pulling away, a very fast-spreading zombie infection overtakes the station. Has the train gotten away cleanly? Well, no, not entirely.

Like Snowpiercer and Murder on the Orient Express, the train setting gives a unique twist on the genre in question, in this case, the good old zombie movie. A train, as you MV5BMGUyZDQ2NzEtZDIwMi00ZTA4LWEyM2EtNTIyZDdlZjBmNmY3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjEwNTM2Mzc@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1494,1000_AL_know, is basically a big metal tube and while it’s travelling, you’re all but locked inside. There’s no where to go. All the players, good and bad, and all the answers, good and bad, must be found within the train.

Seok-Woo is intent on protecting his daughter. It’s sad that it takes an apocalypse for this father to finally dedicate time for his daughter, but there it is. For better or worse, their fates become intertwined with those of the people in their compartment: a pregnant woman and her aggressive husband, a couple of elderly women, a vagrant, a high school baseball team, an arrogant businessman.

Director Sang-ho Yeon makes brilliant use of the cramped quarters. The action sequences are taut. He’s less confident about the wobbly social commentary he sometimes wants to make, and the zombies’ abilities do waver a little bit depending on what will service the plot, but it’s never very long before another burst of action is upon us. The characters have actual personalities; some you’ll root for, some you’ll cheer for when they get eaten. Β Sure dad’s character arc is a little predictable, but when’s the last horror movie that even bothered with one? Train to Busan is a little overlong but very watchable, even for a chickenshit like me. Zombie outbreaks tend to bring out the worst in us but Yeon reminds us that we’re still capable of compassion and sacrifice as well. He elevates the film from its generic genre; though its roots are still evident, this film is as fresh and unique as it filled with spilled brains.

18 thoughts on “Train to Busan

    1. Jay Post author

      I hated him at first of course, but he won me over.
      I usually stay away from zombie films since I”m a chicken, but I knew I’d have to give this a try. The enclosed space really does heighten everything.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. renxkyoko

    I just saw Train to Busan last weekend. I have been wanting to watch it since Netflix added it to its roster, but someone revealed the ending to me, aaargh. It’s a bit depressing, isn’t it ? Even the death of 2 young people ( I hope this is not a spoiler ) was unnecessary, in my opinion. But if you’ve been watching Korean movies, they’re not shy killing off major characters. I like Train to Busan, though.


  2. Chris Scott

    One of the best horror-action films in quite a while, let alone a zombie themed one. Some of the best Horror has been coming out of South Korea recently.


  3. Film & Nuance

    Great review πŸ™‚ Especially how you talked about the confines of the moving train and it giving a unique contained kind of atmosphere. I agree, all the players and answers (good or bad) will be revealed. Zombie movies have always been about the zombies. It’s a nice change that we have a movie that focuses on the humans. To me, that really defines the genre. It’s never really about the zombies is it? It’s so much more πŸ™‚



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