Train to Busan
Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho.
Written by: Park Joo-suk.
Starring: Gong Yoo (Seok-woo), Ma Dong-seok (Sang-hwa), Jung Yu-mi (Seong-kyeong), Kim Su-an (Soo-an), Kim Eui-sung (Yon-suk), Choi Woo-shik (Young-gook), Ahn So-hee (Jin-hee), Choi Gwi-hwa (The Homeless Man), Jung Suk-yong (Captain of KTX), Ye Soo-jung (In-gil), Park Myung-sin (Jong-gil), Jang Hyuk-jin (Ki-chul), Kim Chang-hwan (Kim Jin-mo).
As far as out-and-out entertaining, zombie action movies go, it’s been a while since something came along better than the Korean film, Train to Busan. After a few establishing scenes – that show us that Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is a workalcohilic, divorced father, who cannot even remember his previous attempts at buying his young daughter’s love, the film jumps headlong into the action on a train. On that train, Seok-woo is travelling with his daughter from Seoul to Busan – it’s her birthday, and all she wants is to spend it with her mother – when there is a zombie outbreak. For the next 100 minutes, Seok-woo and company claw and fight there way through one zombie horde after another. Like Snowpiercer, much of the action has them trying to get from one car to the next, using various ways, and requiring various sacrifices along the way. With Seok-woo and his daughter are a pregnant woman and her husband, a high school baseball player – and his cheerleader, would-be girlfriend and an older woman. Their main antagonist – aside from zombies of course – is one very selfish man, who stops at nothing to survive, no matter how many others have to die in order for him to make it.
I’m not going to argue that Train to Busan does anything overly original during its runtime. Like every zombie since 1968, the film owes a huge debt to George A. Romero, as it sneaks in his message alongside all the zombie action, making it clear, yet again, that it’s really the humans who survive the outbreak, more than the zombies themselves – who are the real bad guys. The film is ultimately about teamwork and sacrifice – and what we’re willing to die for, and what we should prioritize in everyday life. Yes, that’s a trite message, but who cares?
Besides, even if you don’t necessarily care about the films message, most of the film is just pure, bloody, zombie killing fun. At this point, we’ve all seen so many zombies die in so many ways, you’d probably think you’ve seen it all before. But Train to Busan comes up with a few new twists along the way, and doesn’t slow down at all for you to think about anything. Also, refreshingly, the film is a somber, dull slog than The Walking Dead has turned into (seriously, I still have to catch up on the final two episodes of this last half season – but I’m not sure I’m able to – it’s become so painful and boring to watch the show since Negan arrived).
There isn’t much more to say about Train to Busan – this isn’t a deep or thoughtful film, it’s a film that just want to entertain by killing a lot of zombies in a short period of time, and on that, it delivers about as wonderfully as you could possibly expect. It’s hardly a masterpiece – but it doesn’t need to be. It is precisely what it wants to be.