'Train to Busan'-A South Korean Zombie Masterpiece

Updated on December 11, 2017
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Vanessa is a movie buff. She has seen mountains of movies, preferring horror, disaster, or apocalyptically themed plotlines.

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Why Is This Movie So Special?

Prior to seeing Train to Busan (South Korean), I watched I am A Hero (Japanese), which was based on a comic book. I loved it so much that I decided to give this one a watch too. This movie has knocked my socks off just as much as the other one.

There is something very special about foreign films that can put together a horror-themed sequence with all the action and special effects of a blockbuster film like World War Z (2013), and have the skill to leave behind the guts and gore like I am definitely used to. If you like the idea of zombie films but have never watched one due to the violence and stiff storylines combined with empty heroes with nothing special about them—then perhaps watch either of these two movies and give the genre a second chance. You won't regret it.

Yon-guk (played by Choi Woo-Shik) a rich man trying to get home any way he can.
Yon-guk (played by Choi Woo-Shik) a rich man trying to get home any way he can. | Source

What's It About?

Seok-Woo is a fund manager and dad to Soo-An who is staying with him after a marital split. It's his daughter's birthday and all she wants is to go home to Busan and her mother after having spent the entire week without him while he worked.

Feeling guilty they set out together and while boarding the train, we see a woman with a bandage on her leg slip past ticket collectors.

Later the bandaged woman suddenly goes into convulsions and is discovered by a train attendant — is she having some kind of medical emergency or is something more sinister going on?

Train to Busan Official Trailer (2016)

Quick Film Info

Title: Train to Busan.

Director: Yeon Sang-Ho.

Writer: Park Joo-Suk.

Date of Release: July 2016, South Korea.

Genre: Apocalyptic/action/thriller.

Box Office: $99 Million with over 11 million people seeing it in theatres.

The tough-guy Sang-hwa - the working class man and anti-hero was my favourite character in this film. He wears a button up jacket nearly the whole way through.
The tough-guy Sang-hwa - the working class man and anti-hero was my favourite character in this film. He wears a button up jacket nearly the whole way through. | Source

My Thoughts on the Film

The opening scene of the deer peeling itself off the road to reveal zombie's eyes was a spectacular start to the film. For what was probably a considerably lower budget than big American blockbuster films, these guys certainly know how to use restraint to create a lasting effect, a slow burn to the beginning of them movie enabled the film to pick up pace over a series of events and it flowed beautifully.

The words fund manager are used a lot in this movie and somehow it crosses the language barrier to sound very similar in English to how it sounds in Korean — and I loved it every time Sang-Hwa berated Seok with it as if his job title encompasses his whole personality as somehow vampiric. All Soo-An understands is that her father is never there for her and always puts his needs before others and so his quest on the train turns into a narrative about human kindness and what it takes to be a hero.

Right from the very beginning, we see little effort from him to maintain the kind of bond she desires and his actions through the starting scenes highlight that he would save himself before anyone else much to the disappointment of Soo-An. It's this type of moral infused story that is usually missing from the movies that I watch where much of the story revolves around getting from A to B like in 'World War Z' and '28 Weeks Later' (2007). The spotlight is usually focused on how big the explosion can be or how much blood and guts can be splattered by a chomping, biting zombie. Big-budget American zombie flicks have aerial views and helicopters firing down on mass hordes of virus infused humans — not here, here the focus is on the plot. Most of the film is centered around being on the train, and the train station and while there are a few fight scenes within the film, there is certainly no reliance on bloodshed and gore to create tension and action.

Of course there are tiny things that stand out — like a carriage full of baseball players who are seen to be mucking around prior to the chaos and two are shown to be having a tickle fight which really drives home the difference in how society is shown on screen in a country like Korea compared to westernized one's like the USA and Australia. You would never see two strapping young lads tickling each other, maybe you might see them jokingly punching each other but definitely not having a tickle fight. The other characters are uniquely typecast. The jocks, the aged, the macho man and his wife, and the rich selfish guy which is much the same formula for the cast in 'I am a Hero.'

I did notice the special effects used in this movie were copied from 'World War Z' (2013.) The part where the zombies climb the wall using the amount of bodies they have and the way they climb over themselves to explode out of narrow passageways were mimicked in this movie and it didn't bother me one bit that they used it because I loved it before and I loved it here.

There aren't moments in this movie where you need to look away from the gore, like in other films in this sub-genre such as Dead Snow (2007) where the scenery is set on a white background to simply highlight just how much blood and guts there is. In this, there simply isn't much to see, sure there is blood spatter but in this film, it's just not shown to any extreme. The main group uses the zombies' weakness that they discover along the way to accommodate their problem of avoiding the horde instead of having to smash them all to smithereens so there are no brain smashing head implosions either. When the zombies do manage to get a feast, most of the mess is discretely covered by hair or the camera angle to then come back and refocus on the transformation into a zombie.

The moralistic storytelling is so refreshing, seeing a whole scene where Soo-An shows compassion and courtesy to an aged woman by giving up her seat to highlight her father's inability to appreciate kind gestures goes a long way to stick together the bonding required to get the two closer as the movie goes on

This movie caused me to shed a tear and no other zombie movie has ever done that.

The sequel is in production and looks to take the virus further, having it spread over a bigger area of the country instead of localized like we see in this one. I will definitely be watching it.

I give Train to Busan 4.5 random homeless men out of 5.

This movie has been confirmed for a remake in English.

Are you excited?

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Chaos on the train and the virus is let loose.
Chaos on the train and the virus is let loose. | Source

The Cast

  • I really enjoyed the token tough guy in this with his comical and snide comments towards the protagonist Seok and researched his name to see if he was, in fact, someone who may have been typecast for example, like Arnold Schwarzenegger being typically found in movies where his muscles are needed and was astonished to find he is quite the international star having roles in films like 'Never Ending Story' (2012), 'Dancing Queen' and 'The Neighbor' (2012) with also a role in 'Sense8' Series (2015.)
  • Since starring in Train to Busan Gong Yoo (fund manager) has had his fame sent rocketing as this film is the biggest grossing film made in Korea. He has since made a second blockbuster called 'The Age of Shadows' (2017) which has had similar success.

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© 2017 The OP Mother Of Non-Spoiler Reviews

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