Train to Busan (2016)
Busanhaeng (original title)
Rent Train to Busan on Amazon Video // Watch Train to Busan on Netflix
Written by: Sang-ho Yeon (screenplay)
Directed by: Sang-ho Yeon
Starring: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jung
In this Korean language movie, a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea while passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.
It's everything a zombie movie should be, and it even attempts social commentary. These zombies swarm similar to World War Z (2013), but they move at human speed. If they can't see a human, they're docile.
The first scene sets the stage. An annoyed truck driver hits a deer, gets out, looks at the deer, and then drives on. The camera lingers as the truck leaves the frame, but the deer convulses and gets up, it's eyes white.
The main character is Seok-woo, a neglectful father who works more than he spends time with his daughter. They're on a train to Busan, and just before the train leaves a girl that is obviously infected boards. The movie builds a little bit of drama as we think the conductor will discover the girl in the bathroom, but instead it's just a homeless guy. Soon enough the infected girl is a full fledged zombie. She's walking through train cars as no one does or says anything. I wondered if it was a commentary on apathy and the lack of empathy in the world. As the movie progresses, that is made clear.
As Seok-woo protects his daughter, he tells her how she needs to worry about herself and forsake others if it's in her own best interest. This is a running them, and his young daughter accuses him of selfishness, adding that's why her mom left. You can probably guess his arc after that. While he prefers to ward off zombies alone, he eventually needs help. He's aided by a boxer Sang-hwa and the aforementioned homeless man as Sang-hwa needs to get back to his trapped pregnant wife who is also with Seok-woo's daughter. Many, many zombies stand between them and their loved ones as they fight through train cars.
Sang-hwa is the unsung hero of this film. He's completely awesome. All of the roles fit some kind of movie trope to some degree, and it works in this zombie movie.
Another well-off passenger, a COO of a company, also wants to only worry about his own interests. He manages to form a group in the front of the train that wants to keep everyone else out. As he warns, even if they look okay they could still be infected.
This contrasts with the homeless guy who was met with disdain when he was discovered on the train initially. He's willing to help others even though no one helped him.
This is a little bit of Snowpiercer (2013), with a group working their way up the train, but this has zombies and is less convoluted. The class divide theme is prevalent in both.
The ending drags on a bit too long. I get what the movie wants to do, but the high note of the movie had been passed and was only getting farther away.