Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Kim Su-an
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Running Time: 117 mins
Train To Busan is a South Korean film about a father and daughter who, while on a train ride from Seoul, find themselves and the other passengers under attack from an apocalyptic barrage of zombies, leaving them no choice to hold out until the safe haven of Busan in the south.
In what is easily the best zombie movie in recent years, Train To Busan proves an enormously entertaining watch at every minute, featuring twists and turns galore to the backdrop of an intensely action-packed battle for survival, yet still with an incredible amount of emotion and heart, thanks to some very well-developed characters and strong performances throughout.
There’s a lot to love about this movie, but I’m going to start off with why it makes the zombie genre, one that often falls flat, really work. For me, zombie movies are regularly frustrating watches, proving to be nothing more than two hours of running away from a mass of mildly threatening things, and never really allowing for anything different to spark genuine interest or excitement.
Fortunately, what Train To Busan does is keep the simplest and most effective characteristics of the zombie genre, but make sure that it never loses sight of what makes a good film. As a result, while there’s so much fantastic zombie action, and some properly intense violence that makes the undead far more threatening villains than normal, it’s the film’s story that really makes it work so well.
Above all, the depth of character development is the biggest success of the whole film. Starting off with a concise and interesting introduction to our main characters, looking at a father obsessed with his work and how that has alienated his own daughter, the film doesn’t languish about when it comes to being more thorough, but the background that it does give you is absolutely vital for the rest of the film.
Following on from the father and daughter, we’re introduced just as efficiently to a couple of other major characters on the train that will be integral to the fight for survival, and it’s the fact that get a genuine emotional insight into each of them that means you can really fear for them in this situation, and will them to survive against what seem like impossible odds.
Throughout, the film proves itself bold and daring by making sure no major characters are 100% safe, and that means you’re sitting on an emotional knife-edge at every moment. It’s not the action and pace that makes this film a thrilling watch, but the fact that you’re so enthralled in the story, and each and every turn proves yet another incredible twist.
The performances in this film are also just as strong. The excellent character development is matched by a selection of both likable and brilliantly dastardly performances across the board, and although that doesn’t always excuse the occasional stupid character decision to advance the plot, it reinforces your emotional connection to the leads, and with the likes of Gong Yoo and Ma Dong-seok in particular putting in fantastic turns, you won’t be able to look away from the movie’s fantastic heroes.
And finally, I can’t forget to say that this movie is a hell of a lot of fun. Its drama may be enthralling, and its emotion powerful, but it’s still a playful and hyperbolic zombie movie that will put as much of a smile on your face as put you on the edge of your seat. It’s not a downbeat, apocalyptic disaster movie like World War Z or so many Hollywood zombie flicks, but rather a vivacious and rapid-fire blockbuster full of life and humour to go along with its excellent story.
Overall, I was absolutely thrilled by Train To Busan. An incredibly entertaining movie that outdoes almost every zombie movie before it, it impresses with excellent performances and directing, and a story that prioritises enthralling characters and genuine drama over simple thrills and spills, but still leaves time for a load of great zombie action, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.4.