Zombie horror is probably a genre that has been tried and tested to the limits and there remains very little un-experimented in this genre. However, last year a film from South Korean called “Train to Busan” came along and shocked us with its raw power, sensational visuals, and breathtaking physicality. I got a chance to watch this film recently and to be honest, it kept me uneasy and at the edge of my seat for the duration of its runtime. Here is a film that takes an intelligent way to creating fear. It sucks you in by introducing you to the characters in an elongated sequence thereby ensuring that you start caring for them. Thus when the violence starts, you feel every kill.
Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is a divorced banker who is traveling with his daughter to Busan. The girl wants to meet her mother on her birthday and Seok-woo is taking her to her mother. As the train begins its journey, a last moment entry changes everything. Apparently, the girl who boarded the train was infected by a virus that has zombified her and as she turns on other biting and transforming them, the train becomes one giant holding of blood thirty zombies who want to convert one and all to their ranks. As the story progresses we learn that the ones on the train are not the only ones affected. It seems to be a nationwide phenomenon and now we learn that even getting off the train might not save them.
The film starts off slow but it gives you enough hints at the impending danger. The first sequence shows us a delivery van running over a deer and then as the van leaves, the deer willfully stands up on its feet with blank eyes looking menacingly back at you. It’s just a trailer of what is about to come. In the next few sequences, the film introduces you to the protagonist and his daughter. Through these sequences, the film skillfully builds a sense of likeness for the little girl which in the later sequences results in the amount of suspense being increased exponentially when her life is threatened. The manner in which the action begins is bravura. I won’t spoil your fun by discussing the sequence here, but it will really catch by surprise.
Once the attack begins, the film becomes relentless. Sequence after sequence of marauding hordes taking apart likable characters hits you from right, left and center. There are a few sequences that stand out. The sequence in the train when the hordes bump over one another as they come at the passengers like a swarm is terrific. A similar thing happens at a station where some zombies jump from high rises to take out fit people. The final sequence has a group of zombies literally slowing down a train with their sheer numbers. I haven’t seen anything like it in years. If that is not enough then there is also a sequence where our protagonist and a few others go hand to hand with the zombies. I don’t have words to describe and praise this sequence.
Performances are the last things on our mind when we go for a film of this nature. This is another aspect where “Train To Busan” scores heavily. Every performance in the film is spot on. Gong Yoo leads from the front. He has two distinct shades to his character and makes a convincing mark in both his avatars. I loved his chemistry with his daughter. The film serves as a reunion for Gong Yoo and Jung Yu-mi, who both starred in the 2011 film The Crucible. She has an interesting role here to say the least. Her delicate condition causes more shocks than the Zombies themselves. Ma Dong-Seok is superb as the cocky yet highly powerful dude who at first has a rough start with Seok-woo but later forges a bond with him that would ultimately protect the group of unaffected mortals from a swifter end. Apart from the action, he shares some nice comic moments with the character of Seok-woo. Kim Ui-Seong plays a character that you will love to hate. I wanted to cut his heart out and play with his blood. That’s how hateful he is.
“Train To Busan” is also helped by some terrific cinematography. The CGI is also on point. I keep repeating the statement that the best CGI are the ones that you never notice. That’s exactly the case here. The action sequences are so well choreographed and well captured that they not only have the desired effect but also sucks you into the narrative. You feel for the characters and their safety. The fact that the zombies are almost immortal only makes them that much more fearsome. The background score complements the narrative and elevates the mood of the action.
If zombie horror is something that you like then this is an un-missable film for you. Even for those who enjoy high-octane action films, “Train to Busan” will be a riveting watch. The splendid action, the great performances and the edge of the seat thrills will make you come back again and again for more from this film. Watch “Train to Busan” for sure.
Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)