Saturday, September 3, 2016

Train to Busan

Seok-Woo is a successful and ruthless financial manager who recently divorced his wife. He doesn't have time to spend with his daughter Su-an and she longs to visit her mother in Busan for her birthday. Feeling guilty and figuring it would only take a few hours, Seok-Woo decides to escort her to her mother by train. Just as it's about to leave, a sick, bleeding woman boards and finally dies due to her injuries, but reanimates soon after, attacking anyone who comes near. As the amount of infected grows, the number of safe cars shrinks down and stops along the way become impossible due to being overrun by the infected. Their only hope is Busan, a city rumored to still be open to survivors, but how many will survive to the last stop?

I didn't really know what to expect going into Train to Busan because I'd never seen a Korean zombie film. It didn't disappoint. It's a fairly formulaic zombie film with a couple of interesting twists. The zombies are the result of some sort of infection. It doesn't go into great detail, but the cause is connected to a leak at a nuclear power plant. Patient zero is a deer that's hit by a car and gets up again with a clearly broken neck. The zombies can move incredibly fast and prove to especially be deadly in large swarming groups. Their appearance is a little different than the usual. Their skin is patterned with livid veins and their eyes have a milky film over them. When it's dark or there are no humans around, they become relatively peaceful. They seem to rely more on sight and sound than on smell. The zombies move in a jerky, convulsive way that is incredibly creepy and unnatural. These zombies aren't outlandish, but they have some definitive differences that set them apart from others.

The human characters are split into two factions: the ones willing to help others and the ones only out for themselves. The first faction includes Su-an, Sang-hwa and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong, a group of high school students, and two elderly sisters. The other factions at first includes Seok-Woo and Yong-suk, an older businessman unafraid of voicing demands, plus the rest of the nameless people on the train easily influenced by him. At first, Seok-Woo thinks it's necessary to look out for himself over all others even if it would take little effort to save them. After he risks his life multiple times to save his daughter, he sees that it's important to save others and work together for survival. Eventually, Yong-suk influences the rest of the train to go against the other faction in an effort that necessitated the abuse of a teenage girl and the near deaths of everyone on the train.

The two factions represent the rich and everyone else. The rich do anything to stay rich, no matter what the effect is on others or society. This is seen with Seok-Woo at the beginning of the film with his cutthroat business tactics and how he callously slammed and locked a door with Sang-hwa and Seong-kyeong on the other side of it. Yong-suk also throws anyone and everyone in the path of the zombies so he will survive. These older men want to stay in power forever, but risk their future by not protecting the children, younger people, and pregnant woman who are also the more vulnerable members of society. The second faction does whatever it can to preserve their future, even sacrificing themselves for the greater good. This is obviously the more healthy side and the side that will live on instead of self destruct.

Train to Busan is a formidable zombie film that makes into my list of favorites. It has emotional gravitas at times, suspense, and some touching moments. My only problem with the film is near the ending. I felt the zombies didn't stay consistent in their rules for one character to make a point, but why not make it consistent beforehand? For a film with such a small budget, the effects were very well done with the exception of a moment or two. Other than that, it was an enjoyable film that takes an intriquing concept similar to Snowpiercer and executes it well within the zombie genre.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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