Friday, March 24, 2017

Movie Review: Train to Busan (2016)

Train to Busan (2016) written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon

Recently divorced dad Seok-woo is a fund manager in Seoul, South Korea. His job demands a lot of time and attention, so naturally his daughter Soo-ahn wants to move in with Mommy, who lives in Busan (about an hour by train from Seoul). It's her birthday and he's bought the same gift he gave her for the last big celebration. He realizes he has to let her go but he insists on riding the KTX train with her to Busan. They board with no problem though some unrest is springing up in the city. A girl with a bite wound to her leg manages to jump on the train unnoticed. She is a victim of the unrest--a rapidly spreading zombie plague! Soon enough, the train is filled with zombies and the dad has to man up and work with others in order to get his daughter to safety.

The central relationship between father and daughter is well-written and acted, giving the movie a strong core. He clearly starts out neglectful but would be a good dad if he paid more attention. The crisis wakes him up and turns him into a better father and a better man. The theme of fatherhood is underlined by a couple who are part of the small band of survivors. The wife is pregnant and they have their own tensions. The group has to fight their way up the train to a car full of people. Unfortunately, that car has a corporate executive who takes control and incompetently manages the situation. He's what Seok-woo could turn into without becoming a decent man. Thus, the perennial zombie theme of selfishness vs. selflessness is also brought to the foreground. Thematically, the movie is very satisfying.

The action is tense and exciting, with good editing and direction. The characters use more cleverness than brute force to make their way through the train, making the set pieces more thrilling and less gory. The zombies are unnerving without being excessively gory. They have milky-white eyes and contorted limbs with black veins ruining their complexions. They do eat people but the movie doesn't have any of that tearing-limb-from-limb or pulling out internal organs like in many zombie films, so the gore isn't so extreme. Some of the supporting characters are underdeveloped and look a bit cartoony (like the corporate executive) but the main characters are very good.

Overall, an excellent zombie movie with a lot of heart at the center. Well worth seeing.


  1. My daughter Hannah also brought this movie up ... now I've GOT to see it. :-)

  2. The movie just showed up on Netflix streaming, so you can see it there if you are a subscriber. I borrowed the DVD from our local county library, which is very good at stocking a variety of movies and tv shows.

  3. I had it requested from our library and then Rose saw it showed up on her Netflix account. So we've got the same trajectory in finding movies ... this one in particular. We plan to watch it this weekend. :-)