When I found that the Korean zombie film, Train to Busan was playing at a theater less than 2 hours away from my hometown, there was no way I was going to miss this film. The film had been steaming with hype on how it had broken records in Korea and the word of mouth had been very good. Yes, this had to be done.
My less than two-hour trip actually ended up taking just over 3 1/2 hours to get into the theater due to heavy traffic. Luckily, we left early just in case there were such delays, and it paid off. My buddy and I arrived just when the trailers started. So, was it worth a drive just over 3 1/2 hours and a full price of admission? I’m happy to say . . . Yes!!
Train to Busan, directed by Yeon Sang-ho, is about a man who must take his daughter to see her mother in Busan. The two board a train, which then becomes trapped, along with other passengers, during a zombie outbreak. The father, Seok-Woo (played by Gong Yoo), has a hard time finding time for his daughter, Su-an (played wonderfully by Kim Su-an) and she wants to visit her mother in Busan. What comes next is an unexpected train ride of zombie terror as the two of them, along with the passengers on the train, must find a way to survive the zombie attacks on board the train and off.
There is really plenty to like here as the film is intense, humorous at times, and there are plenty of likable characters to actually care about. Especially Sang-Hwa, played exceptionally well by Ma Dong-Seok as he is a big man with a big heart, and provides plenty of the humor and strength in the film. There is a scene about his cell phone ring which brings a good chuckle but the relationship he has with his pregnant wife is a comedic treat and one can’t help but pull for these two to make it through. Along with Sang-Hwa and his pregnant wife, there are also two elderly ladies who are sisters and a baseball team with a girl who likes one of the players.
Yeon Sang-ho did a fabulous job bringing the zombies to life on screen. The zombies are done very well as when someone is bitten, they quickly rise up in an intense and twisting manner which something I would think only a gymnast could do. It’s crazy to see. The rules for the zombies (there are always rules) are simple: They are fast, they tend to attack based on sight or sound, and the infection spreads rather quickly. There are plenty of moments on and off the train where the zombies are moving so fast I could not help but tuck a bit further in my seat. The zombies do all they can (like crashing through windows) to quickly get to their human prey.
The theme of the film is to not be selfish and look after others, which is something that Su-an wishes her father would learn. Her father spends most of his time at his job and not enough bonding with his daughter. There is also a moment in the film when Su-an, during a time the tension is rising, gives her seat up for an elderly woman to sit down and the father questions her selfless act, and Su-an follows by expressing her disappointment to her father. The message is shown ever so brightly amongst her father (in the beginning) and especially another businessman on the train with other passengers who refuse to help the passengers coming from the other end of the train. They refuse to help even though they have no idea whether or not they have even been infected.
Train to Busan is truly enjoyable from beginning to an emotional end and the development between the relationship of Su-an and her father is done very well. I really have to be picky to find some cons (the clearest one being a climb in the luggage racks above the infected) but it is not enough to take away from the intensity and heart that the film delivers. Zombie fan or not, the film is enjoyable all around.