Contemporary Review / Review

Train to Busan

by Alistair Bennie Underwood


Train to Busan is a 2016 South Korean Zombie film. This movie reminded me why I loved zombie fiction and  zombies in general. This movie deserves to be on the list of any fan of either, or even if you are bored and want a new movie to sink your teeth into. If you want to get into zombies, this is a must see for anyone new to the enormous library of literature, movies and comics that relate to the undead abominations.

This movie isn’t really about the zombies; It is about the people, and how people react in an emergency situation and ultimately come to be their true and best selves. The film stars Gong Yoo as Seok-woo, a hard working man with a young daughter, who he typically neglects for work, and a divorced wife. For his daughter’s birthday, he agrees to bring her to his divorced wife who his daughter has not seen for a very long time. This just so occurs during the beginning of a zombie outbreak across the entire world. The government scrambles to contain and control it.

All of the action happens on a train and within the small group of characters including Seok-woo, his daughter, a professional wrestler, his pregnant wife, a baseball player, and a couple of elderly sisters to name just a few of them. While there are stereotypical characters and moments,  a lot of it is done with such dedication that you find yourself engrossed by the dialogue and raw emotion behind each delivered line and stray look.

The movie is ultimately about reaching a destination as a better person, and caring for people who mean nothing to you. That is the only way to actually survive a calamity of this proportion; people have to come together to survive.

This is not exclusively a lesson that Seok-woo needs to learn, as many other characters have to learn something to abandon their own selfish natures and personal agendas. A homeless man must learn to not exclusively take and sneak and a high schooler must learn to actually speak out his emotions, to name a couple. Admittedly, there are a few characters that fall into cliched actions and choices but you hardly care because you feel engrossed by them.

This movie is World War Z done with dignity and actual care for the genre and story that they are actually trying to tell. The filmmakers have you care about the characters no matter how two dimensional you might think they are. The zombies are ridiculously fast but they are not a wave.You still get the horrible foreboding sense that this is a natural calamity given a human form.

It even has one of the greatest zombie fight scenes I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s one of the greatest action scenes I have ever seen in a movie. It is as magical as it is crazy. If you do not mind reading subtitles then definitely support this strange mixture of cliches and good old fashioned zombie violence that ends up feeling very fresh and new.

4 out of 5 stars


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