Stars: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Woo-sik Choi, Ahn Sohee, Eui-sung Kim | Written by Sang-ho Yeon, Joo-Suk Park | Directed by Sang-ho Yeon
While this review of Train to Busan come after the initial hype of its release, it is one of those movies that just has to be raved about. In a horror industry that sometimes feels a little drowned in zombie movies, Train to Busan proves there is still some life left in the rotting corpses of the dead.
When overworked Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) decides to take his daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim) back to her mother’s to celebrate her birthday, they take the train from Seoul to Busan. With outbursts of violence and riots breaking out though, it seems that the train trip may not be as peaceful as he would have hoped.
While there are many familiar tropes in Train to Busan, the main focus is on family and Seok-woo getting an education from his daughter on caring. Overworked, his focus is not on his family, or the feelings of others, but when he can get back to work. What he learns in the zombie outbreak on the train is not only the importance of his family, but also about helping those around him.
We see other examples of the family relationship around the father and daughter characters. This includes a pregnant woman and her husband, two elder sisters travelling together, and a group of teenagers travelling with their baseball team.
What makes these groups of “family” interesting is the situations they are put in. These families add to the tension of the danger, help to keep the groups of survivors to work together, and more importantly act to change Seok-woo for the better. This is the key to what makes Train to Busan one of the better zombie movies, because it doesn’t just focus on the danger of the dead horde constantly attacking.
The stand out performance and what glues the movie together has to be the young Soo-an Kim, whose performance pulls at your heartstrings many times. She is often pulled into the most dangerous situations, acts as the guiding light of humanity, and of course acts as the main catalyst for the conclusion of the film. While her character’s father may be the main focus of the film, it is in fact her character that really pulls the focus away and shows the key to the film.
What we see in Train to Busan is what we see in many other films about apocalyptic events. Humanities ability to stick together and fight through anything is something we always rely on, and we see this in Train to Busan. Those who fight to segregate others, and fight for their own selfish survival are the ones who fail. Those who fight for the good of others, are the ones who find the more satisfying end, even if their end is a fatal one.
Train to Busan shows just what makes a zombie movie a success, and that is a focus on the human side of the undead situation. The zombie works on our fear of the mob mentality, when it is out of control and looking for blood. The real heart, which is strong in Train to Busan, is helping each other survive and of course family. This is something that we sometimes lose in other zombie films that want to concentrate on the gore.
If you are a zombie fan, Train to Busan is a must watch. Yes, I know that some people may complain about subtitles, but this is something that should be gotten over to enjoy this film which will go down as one of the best zombie films to date. While a remake is sure to come, I doubt it will be able to recreate what was done in Train to Busan, or understand what makes it such a strong film in the first place.
Train to Busan is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.