DVD Movie Review: Train to Busan (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 31.01.2017 1

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Train to Busan (UK Rating: 15)

In recent years, the zombie movie genre has become somewhat over-saturated in Hollywood, to the point that there have been zombie romances, zombie comedies, and even zombie sitcoms. Few of these releases have particularly shone in quality but, as usual, where Hollywood stumbles, World Cinema picks up the slack. This latest addition did spectacularly well in its home country, and with it due on DVD on 27th February here in the UK, how well does it work for Western audiences? Cubed3 finds out…

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Dads get a bad rap in the movies. It's a common trope to fall back on that the dad is too busy working to see their child; the neglectful pop that forgets the birthdays, the absentee father who misses the important events, and so on. That's the case here with Seok-Woo, a Fund Manager who is going through a divorce and is trying to gain custody of his young daughter, Su-An. She, meanwhile, wants to be with her mother, especially after her father misses her school recital. Her mother lives far away, though, and Seok-Woo has a major PR nightmare at work that's stopping him from taking his daughter across the country back to her mum. After yet another letdown, however, Seok-Woo relents, and agrees to ride the train with her… yet that's when the nightmare starts.

There's an outbreak across the population of Korea! Now, there are plenty of variations of zombies for director Yeon Sang-Ho to choose from: the cinematic vision of Romero in the shambling undead, the bio-weapons of Resident Evil, the twisted creatures of I Am a Hero, and so on. Yeon Sang-Ho has decided on rage-induced monsters that are reminiscent of 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake; fast moving and oblivious to the pain inflicted upon them, they spread their infection in the customary fashion of a bite. Those elements may be familiar enough, yet there are some unique new attributes to these creatures - they mindlessly and rabidly attack just on the sight of a human but have trouble seeing in the dark, and when they lose track of their prey they forget all about them, until something else attracts their attention. There are some smart setups in the movie where the survivors have to exploit these weaknesses.

While Seok-Woo and Su-An travel across the country, it's all falling apart - severe attacks and riots are widespread and rampant, with flames rising from the many high-rise buildings seen from the titular Train to Busan. It may be dangerous outside, but luckily the father and daughter pair are locked safely away on a fast-moving train, a veritable speeding steel safe-house to keep them from the hordes, apart from the fact that there's an infected on-board with them. Suddenly their safe haven is turned into a buffet and, of course, as is often the case, the film becomes an exploration of the human condition, looking at how people behave when the chips are down.

It's this character study that is the heart of the film and what elevates it above others of its ilk. The group of survivors that gather may fall into the usual trope camps of the self-sacrificing do-gooders that throw themselves into danger to save others, or the ones who quite literally throw others into the teeth of the undead to save themselves, but each character is individual and three-dimensional. It's also refreshing to see that the team of survivors is not suddenly turned into badass zombie slayers who can somehow cave in skulls with the nearest household implements.

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The characters are so enjoyable thanks to the actors playing them. The acting across the board is great, centred on the father/daughter duo who both deliver quality performances, but the best of the bunch is definitely Ma Dong-Seok - he's always great, as anyone who's seen The Neighbours and The Good, The Bad and The Weird can attest to. Even the extended cast is enjoyable, such as Kim Eui-Sung as a slimy scumbag who is easy to hate.

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
Without doubt, Train to Busan is one of the best zombie movies of recent times. Just like the finest of Romero's works, there's more here than just a film about people fighting against the rabid undead - there's a message here on the state of society and the world in general. The Director shows that he can deliver both the big action set pieces and the emotional moments. Every aspect that makes up this film really shines: quality acting, a soundtrack that complements the moments on-screen, some unbelievable action scenes, and plenty of heart. Simply superb.

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Glad you enjoyed this - me, not so much. I kind of went of Korean movies in general over the past few years, and this didn't do much to drag me back. Tied with how the only zombie movies I've really liked were 28 Days Later...and the comic value of Shaun of the Dead... I'm surprised I got through to the final credits.

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