[Review] Train to Busan – 부산행

ZOMBIE ATTACKS ON THE KTX EXPRESS

A divorced fund manager, Seok Woo (Gong Yoo), decides to take his daughter, Soo Ahn (Kim Soo Ahn) to her mother in Busan for her birthday.  They board the KTX train in Seoul which is occupied by a variety of passengers, including a tough working-class husband, Sang Hwa (Ma Dong Seok) and his very, pregnant wife, Sung Kyung (Jung Yoo Mi), a rich but selfish CEO, Yong Seok (Kim Eui Sung), elderly sisters, In Gil (Ye Soo Jung) and Jong Gil (Park Myung Shin), high school teenagers from the high school baseball team and cheerleading squad, Young Gook (Choi Woo Shik) and Jin Hee (Ahn So Hee), and a homeless man (Choi Gwi Hwa). As the train departs Seoul, a young woman exhibiting bizarre, convulsive behavior with a bite wound on her leg boards the train.  When a train attendant stumbles upon the woman, she tries to get help but ends up getting bitten and a zombie infection spreads throughout the train.

As the other hit horror movie of the summer, this was one that I had wanted to check out ever since the casts’ impromptu appearance on Running Man last year.  Despite my general dislike for the zombie genre, I was surprise that the movie presented an interesting sociological argument about fear and nihilism.  On the outset, Gong Yoo plays a dad who cares more about success and his job than knowing his daughter.  When the outbreak on the train first occurs Seok Woo’s reaction is not that much different than that of the selfish Yong Seok, who places saving himself above anything else.  But unlike Yong Seok, Seok Woo changes as he realizes that his initial reaction is short-sighted and inhuman.

Despite his burly, steroid-esque appearance, Ma Dong Seok brings a comedic charm to his role as Sang Hwa.  Initially surprised to see that he was paired with the petite Jung Yoo Mi, the two actors actually had great chemistry.  Their back and forth banter not only brought a lot of laughter, especially coming from Ma Dong Seok’s witty deliveries, but the selflessness in their characters brought out many of the warmer moments in the film.

At first Seok Woo views Sang Hwa’s selfless actions as foolish but as he begins to change, he is able to get closer to his daughter.  I think Seok Woo’s ability to adapt is what sets him apart from the movie’s monsters.  Because the zombies are unable to adapt, the human passengers on the train are able discern what their weaknesses are and how to beat them using the tools they have available on the train.

The zombies aren’t the only monsters on the train as Yong Seok is a despicable character.  Certainly, Kim Eui Sung is excellent at making every single dialogue coming out of his mouth sound truly spiteful.  However, Yong Seok is a great example of how fear tactics can be used as a weapon against humanity.  Yong Seok barely does anything of note in the movie except to spread doubt and hate.  And yet, why do the other passengers on the train listen to him?  There isn’t any truth to what he says but rather, he knows that these people are also afraid and he’s there to exploit those emotions for his own gain.

The movie has some really great special effects.  The scenes in which the zombies pour out every possible exit and entrance is quite thrilling and heightens the emotions of the blockbuster action flick.  However, it’s equally terrifying to see our characters being stuck in this confined space and trying to fight these monsters on your left (the zombies) and even your right (the selfish humans ruled by fear).  There is false ending that might make you get out of seat before the movie is actually over.  The actual ending might come off as too saccharine for the zombie flick purists but I liked that the movie ends on a hopeful note.  With all the apocalyptic death and destruction, there’s nothing wrong with holding on to hope.

Rating

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4 thoughts on “[Review] Train to Busan – 부산행

  1. I’m the opposite of you, I LOVE zombie movies. Although I don’t think Train to Busant reinvent the genre in any way, I had fun watching it and I did like the idea of confining the zombie apocalypse into a tight space such as a train. I was satisfied with the special effects, but I particularly liked the way the zombie movements were choreographed.

    I also liked that the movie explored themes of humanity and critiqued some of the social issues present in today’s society. I think the way Gong Yoo’s character developed over the course of the movie really made it crushing to watch his demise at the end. His daughter was clearly the person who guided him towards humanity and kindness, while he could have easily gone the other way during crisis.

    While I did think there were a few moments near the end which were a little bit too cheesy (the flashback scene where Gong Yoo holds his newborn daughter, for instance) that kinda hammered down the emotional aspect of the movie, but I generally liked the ending.

    Overall, I was glad that the movie made me care about the characters enough to make me sad when they died, which I often don’t see with zombie flicks. It also helped that I liked the cast, especially Gong Yoo, Kim Soo Ahn and Ma Dong Seok, but I was quite happy with Jung Yumi as well. I don’t like her too much in dramas, but both in this and in The Silenced she worked with children and was much more likable to me. Her chemistry with Ma Dong Seok, as you pointed out, was also surprisingly good.

    Liked by 1 person

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