Being a fan of zombie films, I’m always on the lookout for a good one – and Train to Busan seemed to be getting rave reviews from fans and critics alike. ‘It will make you cry! A must watch!’ as one of my friends posted on Facebook.. so of course I had to check it out.
….Can’t say it lives up to the hype, BUT it’s a decent enough zombie film.
Taking inspiration from the ‘fast-moving’ zombies in World War Z, Train to Busan is a tried and tested zombie apocalypse story where a bunch of survivors try to make it to safety – on a moving KTX train headed to Busan.
Seok-Woo is a fund manager and single father to Su-An. Work and commitments keep him from spending time with his daughter, but after accidentally giving her the same birthday gift as he did last year, Seok-Woo decides to take some time off and take Su-An to see her mother in Busan. They board the KTX train (South Korea’s version of the bullet train?) – but not before a mysterious woman jumps on board and hides herself in the toilet. As the passengers head to their destination, news reports come in describing mysterious and violent ‘riots’ happening all over the country.
The mysterious woman turns out to be an infected, reanimating in one of the coaches and attacking a train stewardess. More passengers get zombified and the survivors run to the business class coach, managing to trap the zombies in the previous car. At instructions over the radio, the train driver stops at a station – only to realize that quarantine has failed and all the soldiers ‘protecting’ the area have been zombified.
Seok-Woo gets separated from Su-An, and barely escapes by jumping onto the moving train together with high school student Young-Guk and the rough but kind-hearted Sang-Hwa. They receive a call from Sang-Hwa’s pregnant wife Seong-Kyeong, who is trapped in a bathroom cubicle along with Su-An and a homeless man with a horde of zombies outside. Together, the group has to figure out a way to get to Coach 13, where they are trapped, and then to Coach 15 to the safety of the business class coach.
Movie sites praise the film for its ‘character development’, with Rappler calling it ‘exhilarating and clever’. It certainly seems so in the first few minutes as the film introduces the cast that will soon turn into a group of rag-tag zombie fighters. But as the action ‘intensifies’, so the unraveling begins – mostly due to the slow reactions whenever something happens.
Imagine this – a zombie is attacking your high school friend, and you spend 10 seconds staring instead of hauling ass out of there. Maybe they were going for the shell-shocked thing, but the scene took way too long: and it wasn’t the first. There were several, all applying the same formula: if someone gets attacked, stare until the zombie finishes and turn their attention to you. It got to a point where the effect was really annoying for me and took away from the flow of the story.
And for a bunch of people who just got attacked by crazy people, sealing them off in the back of the train, the survivors are surprisingly nonchalant as they disembark at the midway station, strolling at a pace as if they were simply going home after a long tiring day at work.
Or how about when Sang-Hwa gets ‘mad’ at Seok-Woo when the latter tries to close the door on him and his pregnant wife when the outbreak first starts in the train? Sang-Hwa’s ‘angry’ outburst of “You’re an asshole” hardly seems enough – if anyone ever closed the door on ME while I was running away from zombies and I survived it, I would have knocked the mofo out and fed his ass to zombies.
The story, to me, is well thought out, but these draggy moments quickly left me bored of the whole film, and I found myself checking my phone often, impatiently waiting for the characters to snap out of their stupor. That’s not to say the acting was bad per se – there were some good/touching moments – but they were few and far between. The only ones with believable, consistent acting, imo, were Su-An (she’s quite good actually) and the archetypal bad guy, the selfish corporate dude who won’t hesitate to throw his fellow passengers on the track (pardon the pun) to save himself. Sang-Hwa is likable as the protective father-to-be, but like all the other characters, suffer from 10-seconds-too-long-expressionless-shots.
And oh, if you’re expecting realistic gore like in World War Z, forget it. The blood/gore in this is minimal; cartoonish even. That’s not to say a lot of blood = good zombie film, but the impact is less if you see a character bashing what is supposed to be a wooden bat with little to no effect on the zombies lol.
Is Train to Busan a bad film? No, not by a long shot; there are plenty of worse zombie films. But I wouldn’t call it the best in the genre, or groundbreaking.