All aboard: ‘Train to Busan’ film review

Poster for Train to Busan
Poster for Train to Busan

A zombie film with a social commentary on class war and being united in dire circumstances

By Carlos Bilan, Contributor


Readers have probably watched a number of zombie movies and TV shows and can name a lot of titles—The Walking Dead, Resident Evil, Evil Dead, and World War Z usually come to mind. So what does the South Korean worldwide blockbuster Train to Busan have to offer? The movie is essentially about zombies on a train, but the underlying themes and the movie’s energetic storytelling make this horror extravaganza—directed by Yeon Sang-ho—stand out.

The story is set in a train thanks to the characters’ luck; in going out of town, they have spared themselves from the viral outbreak that has struck the entire nation. The conflict in the movie is that one infected civilian entered the train just before it departed.

“Survival of the fittest” is usually a central theme of most media in this genre. For example, in The Walking Dead, the characters find a hard time trusting others and they have to make their own lives priority number one. On the other hand, Train to Busan highlights that helping others amidst a catastrophe is still important and that good deeds will surely be rewarded. The division of class also becomes a central theme in this movie, conveyed through the backgrounds of the characters and the train’s setting wherein there is a first class and an economy class.

The main protagonist (Gong Yoo) is a father and financial analyst who exhibits a corporate callousness. This affects his relationship with his daughter (Kim Su-ahn), because he can be rather selfish. As the movie progresses, he starts to learn how to cooperate with other people, and risks his life in order to save others. Those who were saved end up becoming assets to the group. They start building trust with one another and become united despite coming from different social classes.

The origin of the zombies is usually the big question in a zombie movie, and what makes Train to Busan unique is that the movie does not really give a detailed explanation on how these zombies came about. Instead, it focuses on how the story progresses, and how the characters develop. The zombies are also frighteningly quick, unlike the slow “walkers” from The Walking Dead, so the chances of survival are slimmer.

Like the bullet train in the movie, the story moves at a quick pace that keeps you captivated, and thanks to its talented cast and crew, you will really feel the movie’s atmosphere and hope for the survival of the characters. Of course, the final body count in Train to Busan can be pretty depressing, but that’s what makes a great zombie movie, right?

Train to Busan is the first South Korean film to gain over 10 million theatregoers. It has also been praised at the Cannes Film Festival and currently holds a 97 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie premiered last summer, but don’t despair if you still want to experience it on the big screen. The Rio Theatre in Vancouver will show the movie on Saturday, October 22 at 1 p.m. You better hurry though, because the October 17 showing has already sold out, which is why they added a second day. You can set up a movie date with someone special, with family, or with your friends. It is a must-see and perfect for the Halloween season.