STORY: Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) tries to balance his demanding job while dealing with his young daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim), who prefers to be with Woo’s estranged wife instead. Giving in to a request for her birthday, the duo head out to meet Soo-an’s mother in Busan. But a stray passenger manages to stumble aboard, spreading chaos and mayhem as a rabid virus turns the helpless commuters into zombies, leaving Seok Woo and Soo-an to fend for their lives.
REVIEW: Modern zombie movies are usually associated with mindless gore, bucket loads of CGI and tedious scare tactics that can be spotted a mile away by the average horror fan. Rarely would one expect to find themselves immersed in a gripping tale of human relationships and a character study on how people react to dire circumstances.
The setup appears to be standard fare with the protagonist Seok Woo, trying to connect with his young daughter Soo-an, as his career doesn’t permit much time for family. When the two of them set off for Busan, it’s only a matter of time before the seemingly innocuous train ride turns into a matter of life and death. However, South Korean writer and director Sang-ho Yeon uses the claustrophobic setting of the train to his advantage, turning it into a riveting nightmare. Even when the story briefly steps off the tracks, the action continues to be gripping. This is largely due to the narrative extending beyond the two main characters, as the secondary characters tell their own individual stories, even taking precedence at crucial moments. This compels the audience to be emotionally invested in them, and their fates have a significant impact on the overall plot.
Resorting to mostly practical effects helps maintain a degree of realism that serves the movie well and yet, the inevitable violence isn’t nauseating. Combined with cinematography that Hollywood should learn from (no shaky camerawork here), the plot deftly moves past some genre tropes by posing moral questions on what distinguishes humans from animals. Director Sang-ho Yeon coaxes restrained performances from the talented cast which allows the eventual melodramatic climax to hit home without being too hard to digest. This combination makes ‘Train to Busan ’a thoroughly enjoyable, and occasionally thought-provoking experience, making it a must-watch for horror fans!