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Editor’s Note: Electroshadow’s awesome foreign contributor Dennis Perez is back! And what a movie he’s chosen to mark his return with. It’s the Korean zombie thriller that’s been breaking Box Office records and garnering huge critical acclaim. What is our take on it?…

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TRAIN TO BUSAN

Busan Rev1


Zombie movies are often predictable. They are usually about the fear and distrust of fellow humans, and the intense desire to outlast and survive an uncontrollable epidemic.

“Train To Busan” starts its journey on the same track, adhering to the conventions of the genre. But at locomotive speed, director Yeon Sang-ho steers its plot into another direction, a detour that alters the film’s focus from whose flesh will be eaten next to which passenger will be most morally challenged.

Workaholic fund manager Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is doing well in his job. But his success at work leaves little time for his daughter Su-an (Kim Soo-an). Guilty of messing up things during Su-an’s birthday, Seok-woo gives in to the child’s request of visiting Busan, where his ex-wife lives. Father and daughter immediately hop onto a train. But as it rolls out of the platform in Seoul, the trip that would have reconnected him with his daughter quickly turns into a horrific fight for survival.


Busan Rev2


The film could have been simple and straightforward, but Yeon, who also wrote the film, texturizes the story by bringing in passengers with varying moral capacities: a tough man named Sang-hwa and his calm pregnant wife, a rowdy high school baseball team, a young couple obsessively in love, two elderly sisters, a creepy homeless man, and a paranoid middle-aged business man. Not all are ethically conditioned to save anyone except themselves.

In spite of the film’s multiple sub-plots, storytelling remains tight. Character development progressively deepens as the train hurtles forward, allowing Yeon to use the moral struggle of each character to deliver the film’s timely social commentary: that the fight to survive brings out the bloodthirsty monster in each of us.

The film takes full advantage of the cramped and narrow train setting. As the zombie infestation spreads within the carriages, the separation between the living and the dead blurs. In a thrilling sequence where passengers battle to move from one infested car to another, the allegory of good penetrating evil is made clear. But as they push deeper into the train, one cannot resist asking: will the living do more harm than the dead?


Busan Rev3


Yeon’s direction coupled with Lee Hyong-deok’s cinematography also helps deliver the right reactions throughout the film. The tight camerawork inside the cabins captures the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in the centre of zombie action, while the breathtaking aerial shots give an overwhelming perspective of the epidemic’s scale. Although some characters are blandly acted, Kim Soo-an carries her role remarkably well as Seok-woo’s daughter. She is the film’s emotional core.

The film purposefully departs from the norm by taking an approach that echoes current social anxieties. Whether it reminds you of transmittable diseases like MERS and Zika, the current migration issues in Europe, or lesser inequities experienced every day, “Train To Busan” is able to find a resonating connection between reality and fiction.

Few zombie films have pulled off emotions and themes quite like this.

 

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Rating: 4.0/5 (1 vote cast)

9 comments

  1. Mr Eko

    September 8, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

    Okay review. Short and sweet. A bit too short compared with Electroshadow’s normal mega-size reviews. I’m seeing this on Saturday, heard lots of good things and now you guys also gave the thumbs up I’m even more excited.

  2. Park Kim Chi

    September 8, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

    This movie came out last month now only reviewing? Regarding your editor’s note of breaking box off it is true. This is South Korea’s biggest hit in history in terms of audience numbers. Well done to the brains behind this. A proud achievement for Korean cinema.

  3. Barkley

    September 8, 2016 @ 5:11 pm

    @Kimchi: are you Korean? This movie only started showing in Malaysia today man. Looking forward to watching it but I heard its too similar to World War Z. This review is simplistic. Easy reading.

  4. Cheongdam 청담

    September 9, 2016 @ 11:35 am

    좋은 영화. 많은 서양 좀비 영화 보다 낫다 .

  5. Arrivederci

    September 9, 2016 @ 8:43 pm

    Love Train to Busan! One of the best zombies movies I ever seen. Exciting from start to finish and many moments of touching emotions. Don’t wanna spoil it for those who haven’t seen but The ending is so sad man. The big guy with the pregnant wife is my fav character, he was kicking ass even until the end. What a badass. The old auntie was a bit unbelievable what she did though. No reason for her to do it I feel. What do you think?

  6. casca

    September 10, 2016 @ 1:30 am

    barkley heard right. this borrows a lot from world war z. wished they’d found their own “asian” take on the zombies, wasn’t too crazy about the swarm effect there and it’s not terribly scary here either. and that’s the main weakness of train to busan. it’s not scary. that’s not to say it’s not good. it’s a pretty thrilling ride, and i suppose the creators were going for the excitement factor rather than scares. even so, what they did with the action they did well. found some of the emo stuff a bit over the top though. could’ve done with a little less crying but it’s korean so that’s expected. overall a worthy addition to the whole zombie sub-genre. oh and curious as i am to know what wai thinks of this movie it’s cool to read reviews by different occasional writers. brings a fresh perspective and flavor on things. more like this pls.

  7. Mr Eko

    September 15, 2016 @ 12:07 am

    Came back here to post my review. Forgot after watching last week. Movie is awesome! Waaaaay better than 90% of Hollywood zombie movies except for Shaun of Dead and 28 Days Later. Whoever compared it to World War Z is lame, only similar t is the mass effect. In fact it’s even better than Walking Dead, that show is going from worse to worst. Only lacking part is the zombie make up is not as good as Hollywood. The dad is cool, he starts as antihero then becomes a hero in the end. Like the review said, its the little girl her rship with the dad that is emotional. The bad guy escaping so many times is a bit too much though. 9/10 for me!

  8. Barkley

    September 15, 2016 @ 2:55 am

    Shaun Of The Dead and 28 Days Later are not Hollywood movies. Both British.

  9. Dennis

    September 19, 2016 @ 11:29 pm

    Thanks Mr Eko! Yes it’s a short review. Whilst there are more to say about the film, I also don’t want to share too much to keep readers excited (I wrote this a week before it was released in Malaysia).

    Hi Kim Chi. You have all the reason to be proud of this film. Korean movies are penetrating the global market now. If you can recommend other Korean films worth watching, let us know.

    Hi Arrivederci. Aside from being a good zombie film, “Train To Busan” is also a huge social commentary. The characters in the film are not perfect (intentionally). This puts a lot of human tension in the story. The fact that it is sort of affecting you shows that the movie is really effective in what it is designed to do.

    Thank you very much, Casca. Seeing a different perspectives is always nice. It allows people to think and discuss. On comparing Train To Busan with World War Z, whist there are some similarities, I want to believe that both films have a space in the genre (yes, the emotions on the film separates it from the rest).

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