Saturday, September 10, 2016

Train To Busan

Year: 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Cast: Gong Yoo, Kim Soo-an, Jeong Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok

Plot: A group of train passengers travelling from Seoul to Busan fight to survive a zombie outbreak.

Review: Train To Busan is now officially the film one has to look up if one needs to make a zombie film. It pretty much has everything you'd look for in a zombie horror flick. Action? Check. Suspense and tension? Check. Blood and violence? Check. Heartbreaking tragedy? Check. A reflection of humanity's best and worst traits? Check that too.

Another way for me to put it is this: Train To Busan improves on World War Z's style, magnifies the claustrophobia in Quarantine and matches the bloody chaos in 28 Days Later. In short, it is one mean zombie feature.

The story begins with a fascinating intro involving a truck and a deer, and then we meet Seok-woo, a fund manager, divorced, who doesn't spend enough time with his little daughter Soo-an. She wants to see her mother in Busan, so he accompanies her on a train there. It is on the train where we meet our colorful yet familiar set of survivors: a burly man and his pregnant wife, a pair of elderly sisters, a group of high school kids and a vagrant. Oh, there's this corporate asshole too. Then an infected girl slips onto the train (strange how the platform guard missed her, but anyway), gets into a seizure, turns into a manic zombie, attacks a train attendant, and the fun begins. And from this point, it doesn't let up.

Director Yeon Sang-ho, who also wrote the script, had only directed animated features prior to this. Seems like he's got a good handle on live action stuff as well. Yeon takes a bunch of characters, all interesting in their own way, though not entirely unfamiliar, and throws them into the grinder, and we watch in shock and awe how they react to something they are totally unprepared for. What's great about the film is how he keeps the tension growing. There are a handful of confrontations between the passengers and the zombies on the train itself, and in between them, a memorable sequence at a train stop, which is just insane to behold. And to top it all off, a final sequence at a train yard. And every one of these scenes were beautifully shot. Kudos to Yeon and the cinematographer for pulling it off.

But Train To Busan isn't just about blood and violence. It's also about people and how they react in a crisis. We see good people risk their lives to save a total stranger, and how certain selfish people learn a thing or two about kindness and change for the better. We also watch how people can become total douchebags, and how some give in to fear and pay it with their lives. Audiences will learn about sacrifice, parenthood and the human condition by watching this.

The entire cast are all spot-on choices. Gong Yoo makes a great hero as Seok-woo, who starts off as a non-qualifier for father of the week, and progresses to someone who begins to care about others around him. The stealer of the show though goes to Ma Dong-seok as the burly man, who is a total badass when it comes to zombie killing. In his case, who needs baseball bats when he's got his bare hands?

The only thing I didn't like was a certain character's ridiculous involvement in the demise of a lead character towards the end. I can't say more without spoiling it, but suffice to say, this is what I would call overkill, and totally unnecessary.

All in all, Train To Busan is one of the most fun experiences I've ever had at the cinema this year. Recommended. (9/10)

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