Bottom Line : A fast paced zombie thriller with strong performances from the leads that’s well worth a watch. But surprisingly its not the zombies that are the star of this show, that honour goes to Kim Eui-sung and Kim Su-an.
Train to Busan is director Yeon Sang-ho‘s first non animated film (he also wrote and directed the excellent animated films ‘King of Pigs‘ and ‘The Fate‘ ). Its been the runaway hit of the year for Korean cinema; It was the first film this year to reach the 10 million viewers milestone at the Korean box office and has also been storming the box offices across Asia (Hong Kong for example).
So What’s it all about?
Starring Gong Yoo, Ma Dong Seok, Jung Yoo Mi, Choi Woo Shik, and Ahn So Hee, Train to Busan tells the story of passengers on a Express Train to Busan . Unfortunately for the KTX (Korean Express Train ) leaving Seoul Station, a zombie like girl jumps onto the train. The girl is infected with a horrific virus that is spreading like wildfire. Seok-Woo, Soo-An and the other passengers on the KTX train must now fight for their lives.
Stand out Characters
Ma Dong-seok ( playing Sang -Hwa)
Gotta love this guy. He’s usually the supporting character in many blockbuster films (Nameless Gangster, The Unjust, Chronicles of Evil ) , yet always finds a way to stand out and at times upstage the stars.
In Train To Busan – Ma Dong-seok is once again on top of his game (give this guy more lead roles already !). Playing the devoted husband who will do anything to protect his pregnant wife Sung-Gyeong ( played by Jung Yu-Mi ), as well as the passengers on the train.
Notes: The film serves as a reunion for Gong Yoo and Jung Yu-mi who both starred in the 2011 film The Crucible.
Ma Dong-seok is the strong hero always ready to over power the zombie attacks. His conflicts with Seok-Yo are particularly tasty.
KIM Eui-sung (playing Yong-Suk)
Be prepared to hate this guy .
In a film in which you are meant to care for all of the non zombie cast, you strangely find yourself hating this guy more than any zombie!
I’m not going to spoil anything for you but let me tell you.. this guy does some crazy unspeakable things…
Despite all the things he does, you can just about understand why he’s doing it. He’s simply out to survive and his survival instincts are pushing him to do whatever he can to make it out alive (and I do mean.. “whatever he can!” ). Cruel but brilliant!
Kim Su-an (playing Soo-An)
Kim Su-an (Soo-An) is easily the stand out in Train to Busan. Not only does she raise above the other cast members, but her role is pivotal to the film’s core characters development.
Probably one of the most important scenes is the one in which she explains to her dad (Seok-Woo – played by Gong Yo) that he only cares about himself. A fact that is initially touched on earlier in the film , but is further developed as the film goes on.
This is a theme that comes up time and time again throughout the film. Not just for Gong Yo, but the rest of the characters who have plenty of moments in which they have to put others first.
It brings a very human element to an otherwise typical zombie movie. In fact I would go as far as to say that these elements are what really brings the audience into the film.
You are made to actually care about the characters and what will happen to them (Apart from Kim Eui-sung of course… :-) ) .
But There Is Very Little Backstory
What really happened that caused the zombie infection in the first place ? A very important question with little to no answers.
It’s only really touched on right at the start of the film (with Zombie Deer !) and later via a brief conversation between Gong Yo and a worker.
But it all feels very rushed and nonsensical. Yeon Sang-Ho’s gritty animated film ‘Seoul Station‘ (set one day before to the events of the film ) should help answer many questions but for those unable to catch the prequel they will be left with many unanswered questions.
The run-time of the film isn’t overly long , so I feel as though a bit more back story into the zombie infection could have made for a more impactful film without feeling too dragged out..
Zombies may run wild on the train but this is a very human story
Train to Busan surprised me. Whilst I fully expected to enjoy the action and be on the edge of my seat , I didn’t expect to truly care about the characters. This is really what sets this film apart. The real human elements and sub stories of trust , love and friendship are wonderfully played and beautifully directed.
I’m curious to see what Yeon Sang-Ho does next.