Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan” is the most purely entertaining zombie film in some time, finding echoes of George Romero's and Danny Boyle's work, but delivering something unique for an era in which kindness to others seems more essential than ever.
For decades, movies about the undead have essentially been built on a foundation of fear of our fellow man—your neighbor may look and sound like you, but he wants to eat your brain—but “Train to Busan” takes that a step further by building on the idea that, even in our darkest days, we need to look out for each other, and it is those who climb over the weak to save themselves who will suffer.
Social commentary aside, it’s also just a wildly fun action movie, beautifully paced and constructed, with just the right amount of character and horror. In many ways, it’s what “World War Z” should have been—a nightmarish vision of the end of the world, and a provocation to ask ourselves what it is that really makes us human in the first place.
Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is a divorced workaholic. He lives with his mother and barely spends any time with his daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an). He’s so distant from her that he buys her a Nintendo Wii for her birthday, ignoring that she has one already, and that he’s the one who bought it for her for Children’s Day. To make up for this rather-awkward moment, he agrees to give Su-an what she really wants—a trip to her mother’s home in Busan, 280 miles away.
It’s just an hour train ride from Seoul. What could possibly go wrong? Even the set-up is a thematic beauty, as this is more than just a train ride for Seok-woo and Su-an—it’s a journey into the past as a father tries to mend bridges and fix that which may be dead. It’s a perfect setting for a zombie movie.
After the near-perfect first hour of “Train to Busan,” the film slows its progress and makes a few stops that feel repetitive, but the journey recovers nicely for a memorable finale. You could call it “Train of the Living Dead” or “'Snowpiercer' with Zombies.” Whatever you call it, if it’s playing in your city and you’ve ever been entertained by a zombie movie, it’s hard to believe you wouldn’t be entertained by this one.
source: tnp, rogerebert.com