Film Review: Train to Busan

Train to Busan is not a film I would normally watch. I had seen plenty of zombie films (X of the living dead, I Am Legend, 30 X later, Dawn of the Dead etc.) and played video games pertaining to that too, so another film in that genre wouldn’t pique my attention. On top of that, it’s Korean. Now I have nothing against Korean stuff. It just means I have to chase subtitles as well and that makes appreciating a film more difficult; whilst I understand bits of Japanese from anime binges, I know zero Korean.

But my fiance wanted to watch it so I did.

Spoiler alert, duh.

It follows the story of a fund manager single father, Seok-woo, who tries to survive a zombie apocalypse with his school age annoying-as-hell daughter, whose role seems to comprise only of being his inappropriately-timed moral compass (stopping everything and crying “This is why mum left you” when there’s a zombie on her ass and he’s trying to save her life) and baggage. I appreciate most children will be baggage during a zombie apocalypse, along with most elderly and the unfit — which is why you STFU and do as you’re told to survive. I have to admit on more than one occasion I had punching urges and it’s not only because of the adults. She also reaffirmed my desire to never have human children.

The zombie aspect itself didn’t bring more to the zombie genre. Zombies running quickly and are difficult to kill are less common than the traditional ambling corpses, but Left 4 Dead and I Am Legend have both used them. As a zombie film, Train to Busan was not spectacular.

The psychology of the characters, however, I find fascinating. You have the Dad, who tries hard in his way to make it up to his daughter, Su-An, and look after her at the expense of everyone else including himself. You have the daughter, who sees everything with child-like binary and will speak out NO MATTER THE SITUATION (*pulls out hair*). You have the teenage baseball team who are naive but brave, looking out for each other. You have the train conductor caught between a rock and a hard place when your train fills with zombies wanting to eat you and your passengers’ brains and some survivors might be infected. You have the foul-mouthed sweethearted dude, Sang-hwa, with a pregnant wife, Seong-kyeong, who’s really hardcore but will die for his paramour and unborn baby. You have the rich ass businessman who watches out for only himself — only to turn out he wants to go to Busan to make sure his mum is OK. And the two old women sisters who love and watch out for each other, but know their bodies can make themselves a burden for survival. And the unnamed vagrant, whose presence until the end was nothing but a burden, but the survivors’ kindness to him until his end meant he was willing to sacrifice himself.

All of those characters interacting together on a train cart when all the others are occupied by flesh-eating zombies made me want to scream at the selfishness of human beings, pee myself thinking I WILL NOT SURVIVE if I were in that bunch, and applaud the writers for making such a complex character salad.

The ending is bittersweet, too. I was hoping for the dad to make it, so he can turn a new leaf and be more socialist than capitalist, but he has to settle for atonement by suicide.

Sigh. The film did make me a bit watery-eyed during some of it. The daughter realising her dad is bitten. The hardcore dad-to-be naming his unborn child (at last).

Verdict: does not add anything new to the zombie genre but an enjoyable film, would recommend. Excellent characters. Worth watching. 4 stars.


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