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Monday, October 7, 2019

Review: Train To Busan

Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Screenplay: Joo-Suk Park and Sang-ho Yeon
Year: 2016

A while ago in my review of “Rampant”, I mentioned my desire for reviewing this movie at some point. Well, not much time had to pass by for me to set myself an opportunity to do it and here it is. My eagerness for reviewing this movie comes from how impressed I was with it the first time I saw it and that I still consider it one of the best zombie movies of all times.

In zombie movies, we often see the effort of having the protagonists (or victims) in contained spaces at the mercy of these feared creatures. In “Train to Busan”, as the title suggests, the protagonists are trapped inside a train, where chaos comes once zombies start attacking and converting passengers, increasing the chances for the survivors to not make it out alive.

Something I enjoyed from this movie is the zombie design, making them creatures that lose all their humanity besides walking on two feet. They are only driven by their most primitive instinct, reduced to feed without assessing consequences. Also, I liked that they lose all of their reasoning capacity to the extent to which they cannot attack a victim if they cannot see it, something majestically used in several important parts of the movie. This animalistic behavior of the zombies is used to create some impressive scenes reminiscent of “World War Z”, where zombies clumsily agglomerate in a way in which they inadvertently use each other to reach places they would not have been able to on their own.

Our main characters are fed from stereotypes, but the way in which they are developed makes you grow sympathy towards them. The protagonists Seok-woo, interpreted by Yoo Gong is a businessman with a cold heart willing to do whatever it takes to be successful in his job. This is shown in the way he has neglected his relationship with his daughter Soo-an, interpreted by Su-an Kim and how she resents being ignored. During the development of the plot, we see how the character of Seok-woo is modified to turn into a less egocentric and more caring person. The antagonist Yon-suk, interpreted by Eui-sung Kim, is also a businessman, but he lacks courage and shows it in a few acts of cowardice that put the lives of others at risk or to actually get other people killed. 

Another part in which this movie impresses is in the acting. All actors involved in this movie do an excellent job, managing to show that fear and adrenaline sensation in each scene. Without a doubt, the best acting in this movie comes from Su-an Kim, with several emotive scenes that are simply heartbreaking. Of course, this would not be possible without a good story and good directing, in which Joo-Suk Park and Sang-ho Yeon take all the credit. They succeed in keeping the tension high since early in the movie and in keeping the viewer alert for any surprise attack.

Something in which this movie excels at is in keeping the viewer focused on the danger at hand and how the protagonists can escape from it. Different from other movies in this genre, "Train to Busan" keeps you in the shoes of the protagonist, knowing only what they know. There is not a search for a cure or any known reason for this chaos, except for a conversation that gives some clues, but nothing conclusive. The attention is only focused on the survival of the protagonists.

“Train to Busan” has one of my favorite scenes in horror cinema. This is when a group of survivors reaches a train station that seems to be abandoned. While they descend using a mechanical stair it is slowly revealed that there is a group of people that seems to be military. When they think they are safe, it is revealed that this is a group of zombies that just became aware of their presence and attack them. The expectation and anticipation created while it is finally revealed what are these people are wonderful, and when it is finally revealed as the victims' vulnerable position is emphasized is bone-chilling. 

In essence, "Train to Busan" has a simple story, where a group of people trapped inside a train tries to survive a zombie attack. But the story develops many layers such as fatherhood and caring for others. The tension and rhythm are well developed to keep the viewer at the edge of its seat and on top, it has great acting and special effects. No doubts that this is a contemporary horror cinema masterpiece and one of the best zombie movies to date.

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