Movie Review: Train to Busan

After several seasons of “The Walking Dead” and watching everything from Gorge A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” to its horror comedy counterpart “Shaun of the Dead,” I’ve pretty much had it with the undead. After all, there’s only so many ways it can go. Like most films and series of this genre, however, it’s never just about the zombie and the ensuing disaster that comes with them. 

Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan” is equal parts zombie thrill and human nature study on a high-speed train. With the chances for survival diminishing at every turn, the question really is: What kind of human being am I when doomsday hits?

You’ve got a separated father (Seok-Woo, played by Gong Yoo) wanting right by his daughter Soo-an (Kim Su-an) on her birthday and take her to see her mother. You’ve also got a pregnant woman Seong-kyeong (Jung Yu-mi) and her tough but responsible husband Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok); a stereotyped rich-and-selfish CEO, Yong-suk (Kim Eui-sung); a high school baseball team; two elderly sisters In-gil (Yee Soo-jung) and Jong-gil (Park Myung-sin); and a scruffy homeless man. Mayhem and morality face off as danger slowly materializes and the passengers realize what is at stake.

You slowly see what humans are capable of, too. Do you fear the dead more than the living? It is always a valid concern – just look around you these days. Some people are heroic in the face of mortality, choosing sacrifice for whatever good it would do; others think only of themselves, even if the world they so steadfastly want to hold on to won’t be anything much – I mean, would you want to be the only one alive in a zombie-infested town? Would your pile of money matter when the end has come?

There are enough thrills here to keep viewers along for the ride. And like most movies like this, you just want to see how it will all end. It has become one of the most successful Korean movies that reportedly enthralled 10 million viewers. That’s what the filmmakers ended up with. That it isn’t a Hollywood blockbuster just makes the feat even more inspiring, despite the fact that its director obviously has the filmmaking sensibility of his American counterparts.

The cinematography and pacing are good; the story itself is pretty typical and you spend the rest of the time making guesses as to which character would survive. There are no “hero” shots or “awesome zombie kills.” There are no Brad Pitt moments where he walks out with a cure. The movie wasn’t about that. Despite the fact people label it as another zombie movie, “Train to Busan” is a statement about how the best and worst in us are magnified by end-of-days scenarios. Hopefully, as human beings, we go out of this world the way we’ve lived in it – with dignity and heroism.  

Reviewed by:

Annie S. Alejo
3 out 4 stars