I have never been much on foreign films where I have to read the subtitles, but I had heard enough of the online community rave about this movie (from Collider’s Perri Nemeroff to the Top 10 Show) that I had it on my queue over at Netflix. Looking though for Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed #199, I came across Train to Busan and thought I’d give it a chance.
I am so glad that I chose to watch this. You become so invested in the characters and the story unfolding here that you forget that you are reading the movie.
A group of passengers boarded a train in an attempt to escape the sudden outbreak of zombies plaguing South Korea. The word was that the city of Busan had been a safe haven so far, or so they heard. The train was not free from the monsters and the uninfected passengers struggles to remain one step ahead of the horde.
This just well may be the best zombie genre movie that I have ever seen. I loved those comedic zombie movies such as Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead, and there has not been a dramatic zombie film that I would put on their level. Train to Busan is the one.
Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) is a fund manager who was escorting his daughter Su-an (Kim Soo-ahn) to his estranged wife in Busan. Seok-Woo couldn’t care less about anyone else and his work was taking him away from Su-an consistently.
Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (Yu-mi Jung) are also on the train. Other passengers include a pair of elderly sisters, a high school baseball team, Yon-suk (Eui-sung Kim), a CEO who was out for himself and no one else, among others.
You really get connected to these characters which make it all the more difficult when they succumb to the zombie herd. Some of the deaths are heroic and others are downright cowardly, but they all provide an emotional burst that I had not expected.
Little Kim Soo-ahn was absolutely spellbinding as Su-an. She gave the performance of a lifetime in a role that would be challenging for any adult to pull off. She showed us her fear, frustration, disappointment, grief, and a deep look into the heart of the little girl who showed her father, by example, just what a jerk he was being.
The action was tense and stressful. Choreographed beautifully, the zombies were true threats inside the restrictive confines of the train cars. You can’t help but feel claustrophobic as the film moves along. It does have some of the same beats as Chris Evans’s sci-fi epic Snowpiercer, but the zombies provide a more threatening presence than Snowpiercer had.
Bloody, violent and chaotic, Train to Busan is on-the-edge-of-your-seat action from early on in the right up to the very end. You’ll be holding your breath throughout the film. It is an amazing piece of work.