Thursday, September 14, 2017

Train to Busan

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Take this train after you take the last train to Clarksville.

Train to Busan – 5 out of 5

Zombie fiction is huge right now and has been riding a high for quite a while now.  Not to sound hipster-y but I’ve been a zombie fan since I was about 10 years old when my father showed me the original Night of the Living Dead.  Since then, I’ve watched every zombie movie I could find—good or bad (and believe me, there’s a lot more bad than good)—I play zombie-based video games and have been a loyal reader and watcher of The Walking Dead since it debuted.  Even being a fan, I am capable of recognizing that the market is oversaturated and that every person with access to an iPhone and off-the-shelf editing software can make a low budget and extremely low quality zombie feature.  Finding ones that are genuinely good is very rare and like finding a needle in a haystack.  The South Korean thriller, Train to Busan, is that needle and it came out of nowhere in that haystack and poked you in the tush with its awesomeness.  And yes, that metaphor was strange.

I live in Wisconsin, zombie deer wouldn't be a problem.  We kill those things
for fun.  Hell, they jump in front of our cars on a daily basis.

Next year, ask for a pony for your birthday, kid.
Workaholic father; Seok-woo (Yoo Gong), spends more time in the office than he does with his daughter Soo-an (Su-an Kim).  For her birthday, she asks that she visits her mother in Busan and he reluctantly agrees.  At first, all seems normal until a sickly looking woman makes her way onto the train they boarded in Seoul.  The woman starts acting strangely and suddenly viciously attacks one of attendants.  Rapidly, the sickness that was in the woman passes to the attendant and soon attacks are happening to all the passengers and a horde of zombies is formed.  The remaining passengers—that include a group of young baseball players, a frightened homeless man, a working class man named Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) and his pregnant wife (Yu-mi Jung), two elderly sisters, and a rich and entitled COO (Eui-sung Kim)—are now all trapped on a speeding train with ferocious zombies and no word if anywhere up ahead on the track is safe.

I've seen enough zombie movies that I wouldn't sit idly by for a single second
if I saw this.  I'd be gone before it even shuffled an inch forward.

With as many zombie properties out there in existence, it’s really hard to create something that is unique and stands out.  Having a majority of the story take place on a train and keeping the action localized and completely cut off from the rest of the world really works in this one’s favor.  Nearly all zombie films focus on small groups but we usually see them traveling through the decay wastelands of what was once society or living through the current state of madness as the world breaks down and crumbles from the outbreak.  Train to Busan shows us glimpses of how the country has fallen but focuses mostly on this small group of survivors trying to figure out the scope of what happened while being entirely isolated on a train.  This dynamic caused the story to focus on what makes a zombie movie great and that is the human survivors.  

Oh, I get it.  The dad was the train the whole time--no, wait, I'm being told
I'm wrong and there was a literal train and this is them just running away
from the murderous horde.

This man is one of those dudes you love to hate.
You always need them in a zombie movie.
Yes, gore and decomposing zombies is fun and provides the sweet dessert in these movies but for a meaningful and memorable zombie movie, you need human drama and heart.  Train to Busan doesn’t disappoint with this as the script and performances do a tremendous job of making you care for the characters and have you actively want them to survive…except the A-hole COO character—man, you really wanted that dude to get feasted upon by the zombies.  The way the story develops Seok-woo and we see him go from a distant father who is more concerned with work than his daughter to a father who will stop at nothing to protect his child is very engaging.  Another character I really enjoyed and was rooting for their survival was Sang-hwa along with his pregnant wife.  Having an expecting mother in a zombie movie is a cheap and easy way to garner sympathy for a character and wish for them to survive but the chemistry between her and her husband made it less of a plot device and more of some genuinely interesting characters that are deserving of a tomorrow.  Plus, Sang-hwa is a pure badass and it was almost impossible to not cheer for him when he was cracking zombie skulls in order to protect those around him.

He was just awesome!

Hmmm...yep, that is terrifying.  I think I would be repeating
the phrase "Oh shit" over and over again if I saw that
behind my train.
Any drawbacks I found to Train to Busan were very limited and extremely minor.  There is one antagonistic character that I felt took way to long to get his comeuppance and, when it arrived, it was pretty unsatisfying.  Additionally, there were some weird “water-like” elements to the zombies that I found distracting.  I’m not saying that they had a fluid consistency but rather there were some times that when they were charging at the non-infected, they seem to mimic water.  There were two scenes specifically where I found this very odd to look at as a group of them rolled over the seats in the train like waves approaching the shore and during another sequence where they were massing in a group and when they began to collide it was like waves crashing against some jagged rocks on a beach.  This wasn’t wholly a terrible thing but it was very weird to look at and it sorta downplayed the more grounded and tension-filled approach they were taking with these zombies.  These moments wouldn’t make me bat a single eye if I saw it in one of the very strange Japanese zombie films I’ve watch but here in Train to Busan they stood out and were very strange.

I get that they are essentially a "wave of zombies" but did they have to be
a literal wave?
Although, zombies that seem to have the same property of liquids is kinda
Shit, how fast are they moving that colliding creates such an explosive force that
they are sent shooting in the air?

Despite being a fan of zombies, I’m a little cynical when it comes to their films and horror/thrillers in general because it’s a genre that, here in the states, has been overflowed with a lot of low budget nonsense and properties that are about the sizzle and not the steak.  However, I’ve come to learn that horror films and thriller features made anywhere but in the United States tends to take its stories and subject material seriously and isn’t about just farting out some jump scares and gore.  Foreign thrillers seem to consistently show a level of quality that I just don’t see here and Train to Busan is just another example of that standard.  Even more amazing is how the film did this without ever having to rely on a heavy use of gore.  It’s pretty tame by most standards.  It's the story and characters that drive this film and it drives exceptionally well.  I’m very interested to see where the sequel will take this story.

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