Zombies on a train!
BQB here with a review of “Train to Busan.”
As a zombie fan, I’ve been hearing mumblings about this movie in the nerd-o-sphere for awhile now. It’s foreign, the characters speak Korean and it’s in subtitles, but foreign language films don’t necessarily stop me as long as the subject matter is something I’m interested in. Personally, I prefer to read the subtitles and that combined with listening to the tone of voice and facial expressions I can get the gist of what’s going on even though I don’t speak the same language as the actors. Funny how there are some things that transcend language barriers.
Anyway, in many ways, it’s a typical set-up. Mom is divorced from Dad, Seok-woo (Yoo Gong), ostensibly because he works too much in his job as a stock broker, and apparently no matter where you are in the world, wanting to work hard is considered a crime by the ladies but that’s ok. My review doesn’t need to be spoiled by my personal baggage.
Young daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim) misses her mother, who lives in Busan, and wants to cut her visit to her father’s home short. After much wrangling, Dad concedes and hops a train with his kiddo.
Yadda, yadda, yadda…zombies! A virus breaks out and South Korea is overrun with brain biters. Worse, they’ve overtaken most cars on the train, leaving human survivors with only a few cars to move around on.
What happens next is a heroic tale of survival. It becomes a constant running test when survivors are faced with a constant, repetitive choice, namely whether to slam a door between cars shut, sacrificing the life of a survivor who hasn’t made it through yet in order to protect one’s self and loved ones from the incoming zombie horde that’s chasing the unlucky human.
What would you do in that position? Risk saving a fellow passenger, or slam the door in their face to protect yourself? It’s a choice that’s made again and again, and as the movie progresses, we are left with a hope that maybe Seok-woo’s cold, businessman mentality might give way to a more humane, caring side.
Daughter Soo-an foils her dad’s efforts to think only for himself and his daughter. She often lends a hand to complete strangers, putting herself at risk and in doing so, involving her old man in situations he’d rather avoid.
Meanwhile, the noble Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) serves as a more overt check on Seok-woo’s conscience, almost bullying the man half his size to do the right thing. While Seok worries chiefly about his daughter, Sang is worried about his pregnant wife, Seong-kyeong (Yu-mi Jeong). Yet, he believes he can save her, his unborn child, and everyone else he can.
No movie would be complete without a villain and that comes in the form of Yon-suk (Eui-sung Kim), a train company executive who, unluckily for everyone else, happens to be riding on the train and is willing to sacrifice just about anyone and everyone just to save his oily hide from the gray matter chompers.
Overall, it’s a great film, a real thinker, with special effects that rival a Hollywood blockbuster. Perhaps one of the more harrowing scenes comes when Seok, Sang and high school student, Yong Guk (Woo-sik Choi) form a three man phalanx and narrowly scrape through a tight car full of brain chewers in order to rescue their respective loved ones.
3.5 readers, Asia has really embraced the action genre and I don’t know if this is a new thing or perhaps it’s just something I’ve been turned onto thanks to Netflix, where you can find a vast cornucopia of Asian action films in subtitles. Some are dubbed with American voices, but I do prefer to just read the subtitles, so catch this one before it obtains a mainstream level of popularity and they ruin it with dubbing.
The Ip Man Series and almost anything with Donnie Yen are worth watching and while Hong Kong seems to be Asia’s Hollywood, South Korea is catching up with this flick.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Seriously, I know a lot of people are like, “Ugh, I have to read subtitles? No thanks. Too much work. It’s worth it and there’s plenty of action on screen to make up for it. It’s currently available on Netflix.