Year
2016

Starring
Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee

Directed by
Yeon Sang-ho

Tagline
Life-or-death survival begins.

Synopsis

Amidst the chaos of a viral outbreak and zombie pandemic in South Korea, the passengers on a train bound for Busan must fight for their survival.

Review

Ever since Train To Busan arrived on Netflix, it has been sitting in my queue. Much praise has been showered upon the film from critics and moviegoers alike. However, zombie flicks have exhausted some of their good will with me. I haven’t loved a zombie movie since Zombie Land, though World War Z gets some honorable mentions. The Walking Dead, AMC’s hit zombie apocalypse show, has continued to frustrate me with its meandering “plot” lines. I tried to watch the pilot of Syfy’s Z Nation and found the pilot episode comically bad.

As a result, I’d almost given up on zombies and Train to Busan continued to collect digital dust. I’m not sure why I decided to finally watch it as it was jockeying for my attention along with a million other titles on my overcrowded Netflix queue. Whatever the reason, I’m glad that I finally watched it as it renewed my fading interest in the zombie subgenre.

Train to Busan is a damn fun action movie built on the solid foundation of compelling characters and nail-biting tension. These are not the zombies of yesteryear, shambling drones who only provide a real threat in massive numbers. These zombies are more akin to the living dead in World War Z, where zombies fling their whole bodies in reckless abandon to get a taste of the flesh they so desire and move with frightening speed. This shocking level of agility coupled with the claustrophobic nature of a moving train makes for thrilling and anxiety-inducing action sequences.

There were times when I felt my whole body go rigid, when I felt my muscles coil from my brain’s natural fight-or-flight response. While the beautiful camera work and narrow confines of the train contributed to this provoked response, it would have been all for naught was it not for the convincing performances of the actors. More often than not in the modern cinema, films heavy on the action or the horror fail to be engaging because of their two-dimensional characters and flimsy subplots. I found myself actively rooting for some survivors while wishing the worst kind of deaths on others.

The movie is remarkably lean with very little down time between actions sequences. When the action and scares are put on hold for exposition-light character building, there was no lull for me because I was invested in the survivors. These quiet scenes in the film number as some of my favorite and I found myself genuinely moved on several occasions. Train to Busan was a pleasant surprise for me and I would urge anyone feeling frustrated with the current state of the zombie subgenre to give this film a watch. Actually, I would urge anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to do so, especially before the West ruins it with another shitty remake of a terrific foreign film.

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