Movie: Train to Busan
My Rating: 4 stars
I watch a lot of zombie movies. And, I read a lot of reviews from people who watch a lot of zombie movies. So, when I heard my fellow zombie-lovers raving about this new Korean movie I had to check it out. So, I watched it, and . . . it’s a zombie movie, just like many others I’ve seen. Yes, it was a good movie. I do like these things after all. And, this movie was well executed. But’s it’s pretty much got all the tropes of a classic tale of the undead—good guys, bad guys, bad guys that turn good, budding romance, children that must be protected, maybe a pregnant lady, people who don’t want to accept that their loved on has turned. It’s all in there. So, I tried to figure out why this movie came so highly recommended. And, then I realized that the person who recommended the movie to me is a dad whose daughter looks exactly like the main, little girl protagonist whose dad is trying to protect her from the threat. And, then it all became clear. But, I won’t hold it against him.
Of course, this film does have the gimmick of placing most of the story’s action on a moving commuter train. That creates an interesting narrative limitation. First of all, there’s the familiar nightmare of being trapped in a very tight, enclosed location with an infectious zombie. Then there’s the issue of movement. Since the characters are stuck moving along what is essentially a two-dimensional line, their strategies for avoiding danger must adapt. If there are zombies on a middle car, the people at the back of the train will have to find a way to go right through them if they’re going to reach the survivors at the front—especially when the people at the front are threatening to uncouple from the rest of the train to leave the infected behind. And, the fact that the actual train is stuck traveling along unmoving tracks creates interesting problems when the train meets a roadblock, or when the conductor learns that the city toward which they are traveling is completely infested. There’s no way to change course suddenly. And, this movie features fast, running zombies. They’d be on you in an instant if you tried to get out and run for it. So, I suppose this movie does have a few novel ideas to offer.
I think I would end up recommending this movie, even though it may not be the completely innovative film that I had originally assumed it was. The movie really is well executed. And, even though it sticks to classic tropes, it does play by the rules of zombie lore. I’ll admit to comparing this movie to others in the genre (and also Snowpiercer—another Korean horror movie set on a train). I guess trains are an important part of daily life in Korea? But, comparing films is usually a losing game. And, I usually try to evaluate films on their own merits. And, this one passes the test. Enthusiasts of the zombie genre will be satisfied by this offering.