Train to Busan

Train to Busan ★★★★

There’s an unusual amount of humanity—for an action movie—in Train to Busan. By humanity, I mean empathy, human nature (both good and bad), and real people. It’s in the way the film treats each character; it’s what makes it so successful. All of the key decisions that make the plot happen are made by average people—even the bad guy is almost too-relatable. There’s no obtrusive focus on scientists leaking a virus, or government cronies trying to solve the problem. All eyes are on the people trapped on a speeding train with zombies.

Straddling a fine line between horror and farce, the zombies in Train to Busan are all people just before they transform into writhing, aggressive monsters. A preliminary pan through most of the train introduces the viewer to the first few victims of the outbreak, which is enough to show us that they’re human just as much as anyone else is. So when the violence happens, there’s a genuine horror at watching a human turn so quickly. It’s beyond fear: it’s emotionally traumatizing to watch.

The actors, for the most part, do a great job managing to not only hit emotional cues spot on during their character arcs, but also to have impeccable comedic timing. Train to Busan breaks the tension with some wonderful lines, without resorting to something completely random; the characters makes jokes that seem plausible. The action is well-done (other than passing up on a great opportunity to reference Oldboy’s hammer scene) and tense, as it’s clearly not afraid of killing off characters.

The heart of the story is a father and daughter, trying to get to Busan to see the separated mother. The pair’s chemistry is endearing and heartfelt, keeping them the centre of the film as Train to Busan sways to momentarily focus on supporting characters.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good, scary zombie movie and Train to Busan is a wonderful example of just that. Not only are the zombie’s horrifying, but play into the film’s themes of humans attacking other humans. The zombies aren’t the only ones who quickly turn on their fellow people in order to survive, and that’s the scariest part.

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