Train to Busan

10/14/2021 06:29

Film: Train to Busan (Busanhaeng)

Year: 2016

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Writer: Joo-Suk Park and Sang-ho Yeon

Starring: Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung and Ma Dong-seo



This was a film that I had heard a lot about through horror podcasts I listen to, all of them giving this high praise. It wasn’t until my sister recommended it that I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it. My second viewing was actually in the theater at the Gateway Film Center as part of Fright Club. I’ve also given it a third viewing for The Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Series for the 2010s. The official synopsis for the film is while a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.

Now my father is a zombie fanatic, so my sister and I were raised on this sub-genre of films. I prefer the Romero zombies where they are slow-moving, because I don’t believe that they could run. Zombies are reanimated corpses where the body would start to deteriorate. This film features fast moving zombies and to be honest, I don’t mind them here. What really surprised me about this film is the depth of the story. We have a father, Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) who is divorced from his wife. They have a daughter together, Soo-an (Su-an Kim). She lives with Seok, but wants to go see her mother in Busan. Seok tells her that it is busy at work, asking if they could go the following week. Soo-an feels ignored by her father and wouldn’t hear any of it.

We actually start this with scene where a truck goes through quarantine. He is afraid his animals or going to be put down, but he is assured they won’t. The man ends up hitting a deer when he isn’t paying attention. He gets out to check on it, but after getting back into his truck, the animal stands back up with white eyes. Strange things are happening when Seok is taking his daughter to the train station, but it doesn’t stop them. As the train starts, there is an odd man that gets on, as well as a young lady who is walking funny.

What I like about this film is where the story goes from here. We have a married couple where the wife is pregnant. The male is Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) and she is Seong-kyeong (Yu-mi Jung). There is a jerk who works for a transportation company, Yon-suk (Eui-sung Kim). Also a baseball team with their biggest fan also boards the train. One of the players is Yong-guk (Woo-sik Choi) and the fan that has a thing for him is Jin-hee (Sohee). There are interactions between these passengers, but everything comes to a head when the outbreak hits the train.

Sang is interesting, because he is a good guy with a rough sense of humor. He gets mad at Seok who tries to lock him and his wife out of their car. I can’t completely fault Seok as he is trying to ensure his daughter’s safety. I also can’t blame Sang for being mad. What I like about this though is that Soo-an tries to show her father they need to help people in order to survive. I get why he wouldn’t, especially when it comes to keeping her safe.

If you couldn’t tell, I liked the story for the film and I’ll move to the pacing. I do think that it does solid in building tension and I loved the ending. It is a combination of being a downer as well as being happy which I liked. It did tug at my heartstrings as well. This movie for almost being two hours flies by. We get these lulls before getting back into it, but after seeing this three times, it doesn’t bother me.

Something I haven’t brought up is the social commentary. We have two corporate guys involved here with our lead Seok and the jerk of Yon. They are selfish at first. Seok talks with his assistant throughout this of Mr. Kim (Jae-rok Kim). It appears that the company behind this was in the middle of their fund they were managing. It makes him question if they were involved or not. I like the subtle use here of corporations being the evil of the world and causing this. It isn’t too heavy handed though. You can lump Yon in there as well.

Next I will go to the acting which I thought was phenomenal. Gong was great as the selfish father and has a solid character arch that he goes through. It was fun to watch that change play out. I thought Jung was good in her role. Ma was probably my favorite part of this film. He is a jerk at first, but you see that he just has a rough personality and sense of humor. He is a hero though for sure. Su-an Kim was good as the little girl. I thought her role was solid, especially what she does for her father. Eui-sung Kim was also great as the jerk here. I think it really needed someone like him. I get what he is trying to do, but it just frustrates you as a viewer. If you can elicit a reaction like that from me, you’re doing something right. I thought the rest of the cast rounded out the movie for what was needed.

As for the effects of the film, they look to be mostly practical with a bit of CGI mixed in. I thought the look of the zombies was great. I like the milky eyes and the veins going darker when they’ve turned. How they act was also well done. There was some times where CGI was used with the zombies, but that was mostly when there was a large number of them and they needed to do something that couldn’t be done practical. It doesn’t look the greatest, but I understand why they went that route. Overall though I thought the effects were good. I also like that this movie establishes their own lore for the zombies and sticks with it.

Now with that said, this is a good film and I can see why it made a lot of people’s top tens for that year. It is a zombie film that has a good story, something that is reminiscent of Romero’s films with a bit of social commentary. I love the challenges the characters are faced with in trying to survive this outbreak. The pacing was good in building tension; it does just run a little bit long. I thought the acting was great across the board. The effects that were done practical look good and most of the CGI does as well. The soundtrack I thought was fitting for what was needed, but it didn’t standout. I do think that the sounds design is actually solid with how the zombies sound and how the characters use it in order to survive. Overall I would recommend this film for the drama that it brings while a zombie outbreak happens. This film is from South Korea so keep that in mind. I watched it with English subtitles on. If that is something that’s an issue, then I’d avoid this one. If not, I do think this is worth a watch.


My Rating: 9 out of 10