Train to Busan (Busanhaeng) (2016) review

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Take the Z Train

Train to Busan (Busanhaeng) (2016) 9 out of 10: A surprisingly good zombie flick out of Korea that takes place unsurprisingly on a train to Busan.

The Good

The Good: Why does Train to Busan work so well? It is not as if we have some sort of zombie movie drought going on. Yet Train to Busan manages to be a standout in a very crowded genre.

First of all, there is the craftmanship involved. Train to Busan gets the details at the edge of the picture correct. It has a small fixed number of survivors we can root for (or hiss at in some instances) but it also has plenty of cannon fodder.

Train From Busan borrows liberally from the zombies of World War Z and is the stronger movie for it. It also invokes the first thrilling twenty minutes of the Dawn of the Dead remake and manages to hold that thrill throughout most of the movie.

Train to Busan has a small inclosed spaces (A moving train) that brilliantly gives the movie an excuse to show the larger destruction of the world around it.

One problem with some zombie films including some classics is it becomes a six person play inside a basement after a while. Train to Busan keeps moving forward both literally (the train is moving forward) and narratively.

The Bad

The Bad: The movie attempts to explain what caused the virus outbreak and gives some characters a connection to the cause. This dilutes the horror and causes unnecessary plot beats that would be better spent elsewhere. Much better to let the event just happen and deal with the aftermath.

Think about how The Poseidon Adventure had that rogue wave, and that was it. No narrative beats about how anyone was negligent or responsible or secretly profiting off of rogue waves. (As I recall, at least. Egg on my face if I watch it again, and Leslie Nielson ignored the rogue wave warnings so they could make Southampton in time for drinks.)

I am not saying that explaining the disaster is always bad (Poseidon Adventures sister film The Towering Inferno does a fine job explaining how the fire started) I am saying it is often unnecessary to the plot and can dilute to fear and horror.

In conclusion

Train to Busan is an example of a very well made film rising above its genre.

I love that the film makes the point of showing that the zombies clearly have No Object Permanence and then make most of the characters too stupid/frightened/otherwise occupied to figure that out and take advantage of it.

Videos

A collection of videos gives you a good idea of what to expect without spoiling too much. The movie is definitely worth a watch.

Screenshots

Our Screenshots today are mostly zombie action (no surprise there) a couple of good character shots and some general chaos. The detail work in the background is very visible in some shots. Some dogey CGI is also visible in a few.

Yu-mi Jung as the pregnant woman and Dong-seok Ma as her tough husband are the highlights on the both the screenshot side and in terms of performances.

Yes I am getting Covid 19 vibes from this.
Burger king product placement.
Um… behind you.
Nice shot showing the zombies and survivors with the door between them.
To me Dong-seok Ma is the breakout star of the film
Good idea, but poor execution. The CGI teddy bear in particular looks off.
The movie occasional shows the world at large in a non-organic way. I find it much more effective when they just used the background as seen through the train’s windows.
Batter Up.
Check out the wonderful zombie extras in the train’s windows
Here is another shot showing this great level of detail and commitment to the bit.
One of the best scenes in the movie, you can see the chaos break out behind the young girl.
Train to Busan does consistent background zombie attacks better than any other zombie film I have seen.
Hold the door
Baseball has been very very good to me.
Batter up
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