Seok-Woo fails to give his daughter a shop bought birthday present that would make her happy, thus giving into her wish of visiting her mother in Busan. A journey that her father tries to avoid, as he wishes for nothing less than to see his estranged wife again. Just as their train departs from the station, his young daughter Soo-an witnesses the very last remaining humans in Seoul. It is going to be a long and dangerous journey to their destination. This father and daughter are joined in their fight for survival by a high school baseball team, their cheerleader, a pair of elderly sisters, a selfish CEO, a loving pregnant couple and one homeless man who has seen the horrors of the zombie virus outbreak.
Train To Busan is ultimately a Korean zombie flick, but is sure to be one of my top films of the year. With an interesting cast of characters, which are quick to connect with, battling against their fellow passengers who have each succumbed to the undead. As the train travels along, many of our lead characters get off to a bad start. Thankfully as they start to run out of carriages to run to, some begin to show the depths of one’s’ selflessness for other survivors. With many action packed scenes, with brilliant acting from all involved, this film portrayed truly believable characters. Even amongst all the savage cannibalism, we have some heart wrenching moments. Certainly a film you do not want to get too attached to the characters. The film also raises the question, of how prepared are we as a country for a virus outbreak? Be it having the same effects on a person as a zombie virus would have, or a fatal flu-like epidemic? Primarily though this film highlights the importance of being an attentive parent, as leading man Seok-Woo has already jeopardised his marriage and is soon to loose his daughter over his work ethic.
Seok-Woo is a successful fund manager, seen by others as a vultur occupation. His job is his primary concern, leaving the day to day welfare of his daughter to his aging mother. Having already failed his marriage, he retained the custody of his daughter Soo-an. Not knowing very much about his own daughter, he disappoints her frequently by not attending her recitals. Thus knocking the girls confidence when she does perform. Soo-an only wishes to spend her birthday with her mother, who lives apart from them in the countryside since her parents separation. This family is the main focus of the film, as they travel cross country by rail as a zombie apocalypse begins. Soo-an is the youngest character in the film, but is well looked after by a friendly couple travelling on board. Seok-Woo regrettably risks the lives of Sang-hwa and his heavily pregnant wife Seong-kyeong during the first zombie attack. Seong-kyeong fills the role of Soo-an’s mother when she becomes separated from her workaholic father. A nurturing woman, on the starting line of parenthood. There is also a high school baseball team travelling to their next game, accompanied by a fellow female student acting as their cheerleader. Her name is Jin-hee and is the romantic love interest of young baseball player – Yong-guk. A young man who witnesses the gruesome deaths of his teammates and reanimation of their corpses. Lastly we have the worst amongst society, a selfish and wealthy CEO looking out for his own safety. Although zombies generally act upon hunger and primal instinct, this character named Yon-suk influences the opinions of those around him in troubled times. Risking the safety of other survivors and strategizing how only he can survive, using his fellow passengers as zombie food.
The film begins as a pick up truck drives through a quarantined area, hitting an animal on the road whilst the driver is looking at his phone. The scene that follows sets up the genre of film we are about to watch, as the animal pulls itself up as though brought back to life. Soo-an watches the first attack in Seoul station as her train departs for Busan, witnessing the last remaining commuters being killed by blood trusty figures. Hidden onboard the train is a disheveled man who has seen first hand the chaos that has gripped the Capital of South Korea. With the use of CG techniques, the zombies are shown gathering together climbing on top of one another like a wave, in order to get closer to the survivors. It was blended in with the actual filmed footage so smoothly, creating tension filled moments as we watched the last of the survivors battle their way towards Busan. We witness how widespread the zombie outbreak has travelled in such a short amount of time, with each stop along their train route compromised. The country’s National Security has been rolled out in order to contain the outbreak, but have little success. It’s not just the zombies that are the only danger on this train, but the wealthy CEO Yon-suk influences a group of passengers to abandon those left travelling through the carriages, including Seok-woo and little Soo-an. The dark side of humanity stands alongside the decaying flesh of the zombie apocalypse.
Train To Busan is the action debut from Korean animator Yeon Sang-ho, who directed this feature film. The creator of the 2011 animated film – The King of Pigs. Yeon Sang-ho first premiered Train To Busan at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, two months before its cinematic release in South Korea. With a cast of established actors, all who gave award winning performances, I have to point out the actresses who played Soo-an (Kim Su-an) and the pregnant Seong-kyeong (Jung Yu-mi). Where Kim Su-an played the part of a terrified yet well mannered girl brilliantly, Jung Yu-mi ever so slightly portrayed her level of fear increasing. One of the beginning scenes where her on her onscreen husband face the approaching zombies, he turns to his wife and tells her to run. Her reaction reflected that of a shocked individual that was so true to life, it was in no way overplayed. Train To Busan has so far won a total of six awards at time of writing, with the results of the 11th Asian Film Awards yet to be announced. The film has smashed box offices as the highest grossing Korean film in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
There is even more to come from Train To Busan, as its animated prequel movie “Seoul Station” is set for a physical release in April from Studio Canal. Created by the same director Yeon Sang-ho, showing us the beginnings of where this zombie outbreak started.
I highly advise picking up this Korean zombie film, it has won numerous awards and smashed box offices. The acting is so impressive, with the actors playing the zombies being amongst the best I have ever seen. With well established characters, you quickly fall into the story.
Bonus Features Include:
Making Of ‘Train To Busan’
‘Sneak Peak’ of Train To Busan animated prequel Seoul Station
Seoul Station Trailer