While a zombie-virus breaks out in South Korea, a couple of passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.
If we’re being honest, none of us expect much from a zombie film anymore. I haven’t been genuinely entertained by one since I saw Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (which you should all see by the way). It appears to be a sub-genre that has used up all of its ideas and all of its goodwill, to the point where we have to put up with things like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, and World War Z. So, getting preemptively excited for a movie like Train to Busan is kind of a tall order, even with people talking about how good it is.
That gut instinct to be skeptical is a good one, and one that you should absolutely apply to Train to Busan. It is a zombie movie that takes place on a train, and it does offer up a lot of things that we’ve seen before in some place or another. With that said, I have to say… this movie is great. There is something special here that, for some reason, really does make it an effective and supremely entertaining zombie movie.
What it really comes down to, I think, is the overall look and feel of the film. It’s a bright, colourful movie with a real sense of energy about it. It’s a really well shot film, and it uses the space of the train surprisingly effectively. They do disembark once or twice through the film, but the bulk of the action is on the rails. Compare to this another train-based film (which was also excellent, for different reasons), Snow Piercer, where the geography of the train was bizarre and surreal, you really feel like you understand the space in Busan. The stakes make sense, and the barriers between cars make for pretty excellent ticking clocks.
The pacing is also a big boost to what this film has going for it. It starts quick and doesn’t do much in the way of slowing down from start to finish, just like…a train, I guess. You’ve heard me complain about films being too long, and Train to Busan is nearly two hours, but absolutely doesn’t feel it’s length. It does drag in a couple of spots, but overall the pacing works and the movie is just a really fun ride straight through.
The actors are all pretty good, even if their characters are a little one-dimensional or just plain ridiculous from time to time. There’s not much to complain about or comment on in that department, or in any department really. There’s not a ton of gore, but it was kind of a relief if I’m being honest. I’ve seen all the nasty make-up effects we can throw at zombie movies, and to have that element pared down a bit was more of a benefit than a con.
There are some really cool effects in the film, one that immediately stood out to me was right in the beginning of the film, when a driver runs over a dear and the dear jerks and spasms back to life. It’s a really interesting and oddly satisfying shot, and it probably sold me on the film from minute one.
Train To Busan is exactly what you think it is: it’s zombies on a train. That said, it just manages to hold your attention and really entertains. Even at their dumbest, the characters are entertaining, and you manage to get pretty invested in what happens to them. Including wishing a slow painful death on one character in particular. I swear, no character in any film deserverd a serious comeuppance like this one did.
If you haven’t yet, you should check this out. It’s a bunch of fun, and reinvigorates the rotting corpse that is zombie-films as a whole. It might not be enough to bring them back from the dead, but you’re at least going to get an arm twitch or two.
MY RATING: ****