Movie Review: Train to Busan

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


It's been hours since I saw the film, and yet my excitement, my emotions from its end still haven't dissipated even a little. I went into the cinema with high expectations, brought on by friends and trusted former college professors who have watched it and have given their two cents. I came out extremely satisfied - and a little ashamed (I'll explain later).

From the title, it would be impossible to think the story would be interesting. Yeah, it sounded mysterious and looming, but just that. I've never been more happy to be wrong.

Train to Busan was emotional, especially as the film reached its climax and started descending to the end. The trailer itself was quite intense (and partially the reason why I decided it would be worth watching on the big screen), and the fact that Korean Films were getting into the Zombie genre, putting their own flavor into it, was inviting.


I've always been attracted to these genres - horror, thriller, suspense, gore, zombie - and it was BLISS throughout most of the film (hey, it can't ALL be perfect). I found myself attached immediately to a few characters within the first 30 minutes, which grew stronger as I realized where it was all headed. I also found myself getting pissed at one or two a-holes who I'm sure were based off of real people. It was intense.


(Spoilers start here. If you haven't watched the movie, PLEASE do yourself a favor and go do so. You'll thank me later.)


I still HATE that COO guy with a vengeance. If I was unfortunate enough to be in the same situation with him in the same group, I would've LOVED to kick that guy off the train. The most selfish portrayal of man I've ever seen on film. He deserved to die a more horrible death, and he didn't have to take the main character with him to the grave (which he did).


The film started quite calm, introducing me to the characters whose plight I'd be following in the next two hours. From the moment they got into the train to Busan, and a strange, bloody, twitching woman boarded the train when the conductor wasn't looking, hell broke loose.

The end was more bitter than sweet, though I couldn't really call it depressing. It may have felt that way to me in the first few minutes, but thinking about it, Su-An and the pregnant lady would not have made it to safety if Su-An's father lived. The military on the other side of the tunnel would've shot them immediately had it not been for Su-An singing the song she practiced for her late father. She wouldn't have had reason to cry and sing her sorrows away if her father hadn't died trying to protect them. The end would, then, be depressing.


The key to that explosive, sorrowful ending were definitely the events leading up to it. It was full of moral decisions, whether you wanted you and your loved one to live, or risk it and try saving other frightened passengers. Humanity's capability and natural train of thought during tragedies and life or death situations was on full display here, and it wasn't all rainbows.

Why did I say at the beginning that I was "ashamed" after watching the movie? As I watched, I realized that I was doing the same thing the other people in the audience were - passing judgement on the characters' lives.

You see, at one point in the movie, the COO guy claimed Su-An's father had been infected, thus spreading fear into the others who were originally with them (Su-An's crew had just come through cars of zombies). They were then forced to stay separated from them and were forced into the vestibule. The COO and the others then tied clothes and handkerchiefs to permanently lock the doors from the vestibule to prevent the "infected" from coming back inside.


When the zombies on the other end of the car were let in by an old lady (her sister could've been saved if the COO and the others would've let the group in sooner), they were massacred, keeping the outcasts in the vestibule safe. My shame came from hearing myself shout, along with the other movie goers, that they deserved what had happened to them, and that's what they deserved. In the end, I was doing the same thing I despised them for.

This film's story/script wasn't written beautifully in the beginning and thrown a tragedy in the end. It was written beautifully from beginning to end. Yes, there were funny moments (the zombies toppling over one another was very comical), but the harsh reality of what they were about to face was always at the surface. The reality that human instinct calls for survival, and survival calls for a "me before you" way of thinking was all too strong in Train to Busan. It makes you realize where your morals lie, and if you're willing to let the "good" dominate the "need".

Train to Busan is still showing in the cinemas, and I hope they won't replace it with something else soon. I'd love to watch it for the second (or third) time on the big screen and see if I realize anything else during.

If you've watched it already, what are your thoughts?
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