The “Train to Busan” Review

The undead have come of age. I remember the time when I used to sneak out of bed to catch a late-night telecast of George Romero’s 1968 zombie classic – “Night of the Living Dead” ’cause there was no way in hell mom would allow her little boy to watch such horrid films. But I was hooked !

I remember the time when I used to sneak out of bed to catch a late-night telecast of George Romero’s 1968 zombie classic – “Night of the Living Dead” ’cause there was no way in hell mom would allow her little boy to watch such horrid films. But I was hooked !

Since 1968, our love affair with the living dead has shown no repose. After languishing for several years as a subject taken up only by Indie film-makers, it gradually turned the attention of mainstream film-makers and actors who made the Zombie apocalypse fashionable once again. Danny Boyle, whom we only associate with Slumdog Millionaire, redefined the genre with his deeply disturbing production 28 days later starring Cillian Murphy as the lead who was seen wandering around a deserted London in the aftermath of a viral outbreak. Boyle’s portrayal brought out the true potential of the subject, showing future film-makers what could really be done with an otherwise straightforward plot. Similarly, the Will Smith starrer I am Legend and the Brad Pitt starrer World War Z took Boyle’s large scale to epic proportions ! When film had traversed so far, TV could not be left far behind. The Walking Dead, developed by Frank Darabont who also directed The Shawshank Redemption, turned zombies into a social media and pop-culture frenzy. 

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A still from the 1968 classic. They look as if they have come for a college re-union. 

Directed by the South Korean film-maker Yeon Sang-ho, Train to Busan goes far to break conventions. The narrative begins at the backdrop of some kind of a chemical leakage which starts affecting dead beings turning them into raving blood-thirsty maniacs. Unaware of the spreading epidemic, a man and his daughter board a train to Busan to meet his estranged wife and her mother. As the train starts to leave the station, news starts pouring in about “violent riots” erupting all across the country. As the visibly shaken passengers discuss quietly on the sudden turn of events, they have no clue that one infected girl has boarded the train. Before long more than half the train has been transformed into twitching and salivating rabid creatures. The few remaining survivors have nowhere to escape from the moving train. The only chance to make it out alive is to help each other with the few resources at their disposal. 

The story is replete with several nerve-wracking moments which are so authentically filmed that if you have yourself a bucket of popcorn, you would eat half your fingers without realising it yourself.

The story is replete with several nerve-wracking moments which are so authentically filmed that if you have yourself a bucket of popcorn, you would eat half your fingers without realising it yourself. Apologies for the cannibalistic reference but fair warning. The very premise of zombies on a train is so genius that I couldn’t help wondering – “Why hasn’t this been made before, again ?” Well, Snow piercer did come close with a train working as a perpetual motion machine running through an ice-covered Earth with the only surviving humans on board. But its so much better with zombies.

In one particular scene, a group of three men wade through several carriages to rescue their families who are fatefully trapped inside a toilet while their carriage is crawling with the undead. In an enclosed space, every second turns into a frantic race for survival. 

So what makes this a stand-out wholesome Zombie movie: 

  • A boatload of blathering, ravaging zesty zombies chasing every moving object for a quick snack ? Check
  • A tightly enclosed space with no means of escape ? Check
  • A group of foolhardy individuals who are more obstinate than the zombies themselves and refuse to give up ? Hell yeah
  • A little girl and a pregnant woman who are into daredevilry, constantly jumping in front of the crazies ? Of course
  • And finally, the unselfish sacrifice as the people’s favourite lets himself get a nasty bite to save others while he turns into one of “them” ? *Sniff* Yes *sniff* 

South Korean productions have a character of their own. The last film I had a chance to watch was Kim Jee-woon’s I saw the Devil and it made me a convert for life. The stories are deeply entrenched into their characters and are driven solely by their flaws rather than a screenplay making the characters go through the motions. The intelligent narratives strike a balance between outrageous ideas and the witty manner they are made possible without the use of extravagant props.

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A scene from I saw the Devil. One of the most chilling performances by any antagonist. 

Train to Busan is not the best or even the most endearing of zombie films but the sheer ambition and an authentic execution make it an instant entertainer.

Next stop – Zombies on a plane or maybe the International Space Station. Ooh that would be good !

gobblscore: 6.5/10

gobblpoint: If you are one of those who delightfully exclaim at the mention of the word “Zombie”, this is your favourite fantasy come true.

 

Disclaimer: The images used in this post are the sole property of the makers of the films and are not owned by us in any form whatsoever. 

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