Train to Busan (2016) is a South Korean zombie film from director Yeon Sang-Ho. As stated in an earlier Bitter Lemons review (See Seoul Station), there is always a very present possibility of disaster when it comes to zombie films.
They’re all going to die aren’t they!?
Relax! But yes, they are characters in a zombie film, so it isn’t looking very good from the get-go.
Well then, maybe knowing what to expect will make this a little easier to swallow if anything goes sideways…Is what I said before watching this but boy was I WRONG.
Yeah, if you’re setting yourself up to be let down on but only expecting the run of the mill zombie film you are in for quite a gut-wrenching surprise with Train to Busan. The film is really carried by incredible performances all around.
Everyone in this movie (except for the one person that manages to worse than the zombies) is so likeable that almost every character that was introduced was one I was rooting for! And even though starting the movie I was almost duped into thinking that the main character Seok-woo is someone I shouldn’t like because he isn’t too great of a dad. But then, through the actor’s performance I am left without a hesitation that what he wants is to protect his daughter whom he loves very much.
That’s right, and it’s not just him that has motivations in the same vein. There is a theme of family and self-sacrifice for loved ones throughout the entire film. So much so that every inevitable death in the film has a powerful meaning behind it that either progresses the story or completes a character arc and reveals a character’s inner truth.
Meaningful is a good word to use. Another one I’d choose is impactful because every time one of those moments would come, I’d feel like I was just punched in the gut. Especially because another theme I saw was redemption. Sang-hwa throughout the movie was putting himself in positions to do anything to save his pregnant wife and then later would also do his best to save any of the group of survivors he was with. Later he almost passes that torch over to Seok-woo who even if a little reluctant, carries it all the way through to the film’s heartbreaking but beautiful ending. And now I think I’m going to go cry in a dark room.
Careful with spoilers! But yeah, you’re right. Train to Busan is an amazing film that focuses on its characters and although the zombies are always present, it never feels like they are the focal point of the film which at times can hurt a film. Because of this, it sets up a very tough to swallow cocktail of very loveable characters in a genre where 99.9% percent of characters are doomed from the second the opening credits starts to roll.
I hate zombie movies.
Yeah, but I love Train to Busan. But I also hate it.
Well, how about you tell me how much it hurts on the pain chart.
It’s a 7! Keep a pair of sunglasses handy if you want to keep it cool around your friends and not let them know you’re tearing up.