Friday, October 20, 2017

Film Review: Train to Busan (2016)

Train To Busan (Review)
South Korea/2016
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"...a fast-paced, action-packed zombie extravaganza."

A zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, leaving the passengers on a train from Seoul to Busan fighting for survival.

In terms of plot, Train to Busan is a simple but effective film. The plot follows fund manager Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) as he takes his daughter, Soo-an (Kim Su-an), to Busan. On the train, news breaks out that there are violent riots in all of the major cities across the country. Unfortunately, they also discover a woman who has been bitten is on the train. The woman violently convulses, then she bites one of the train attendants—which infects the attendant with the same virus. This causes a snowball effect, rapidly spreading the disease and creating more zombies. After the hectic outbreak, the survivors lock themselves in a cart and start fighting for survival. That's the basic plot. There are a few stops here and there, the origin of the virus is briefly touched on, and so on. It all leads to a powerful ending.

Train to Busan was an excellent experience. It is a fast-paced, action-packed zombie extravaganza. It keeps you at the edge of your seat throughout most of its runtime. Really, the suspense was masterful. It had me sitting there with my fists clenched, my eyes glued to the screen, and sweat spurting from my brow. (Okay, it was very hot when I watched this, but I was still sweating!) Although it doesn't fully explain the origins of the outbreak, like most zombie movies, I think the ultra-fast, violently-convulsing zombies worked well in this film. Visually, they're frightening. It's the best use of fast zombies since Dawn of the Dead 2004. The setting was also great. It does have a Snowpiercer vibe to it. (I know some will hate me for this, but I actually enjoyed Snowpierce quite a bit.) This is the definitive zombie blockbuster movie.

Is it perfect? Not exactly. I actually really liked the characters and their arcs, although they were on the cliché side. However, there were some blatantly contrived moments where the characters did irrational things. I'm not talking 'so scared they were rightfully irrational,' either. They were just irrational for the sake of being irrational. There's also one unbearably annoying character—the 'survive by any means necessary' character. I didn't hate him because of that, I understand I won't love every character in every film, but he was treated like a supervillain in this film. It came off as unintentionally comical.

The acting was great, though. Gong Yoo was great as the leading man. Jung Yu-mi and Ma Dong-seok were also very strong. Kim Su-an delivered a splendid performance—very impressive for a child actress. Some of the performances can be a bit melodramatic, but it comes with the territory. (Shim Eun-kyung also makes a solid cameo appearance.) The film was shot well. The music matched the tone/pace of the film, too. The film uses World War Z-esque zombies, but the visuals weren't bad. The computer effects actually looked good. The film was directed by Yeon Sang-ho and written by Park Joo-suk. Aside from some character issues and a few plot contrivances, I thought the writing and direction were great. In particular, the direction was stellar. There was no confusion in what it aimed to be: a horror blockbuster—and it easily achieved that.

Overall, Train to Busan was fantastic. It's a heart-pounding thrill ride with plenty of thrills, chills, and heart. If you're a fan of the zombie subgenre, do not miss this film. Hell, if you're simply looking for a way to kill two hours, watch this movie. It's one of the best Korean movies of this decade.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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