Train to Busan

31/10/16

Zombie movies are a bit like buses: you wait for what seems like ages for a decent one and then two crackers come along at pretty much the same time. No sooner are we over extolling the genre-busting virtues of The Girl With All The Gifts, than Train to Busan comes thundering down the track. We’ve all heard of Snakes on a Plane, but Zombies on a train? One look at the trailer was enough to convince us that this should be our Halloween movie of choice.

South Korean writer/director Sang-ho Yeon is in the driver’s seat of this adrenalin-fuelled delight, which eschews the slow-witted lumbering zombies of George Romero and substitutes them for some hot-footed, rabid berserkers that would leave the crowd from 28 Days Later standing on the platform. They are everywhere in this film – tumbling through glass doors, raining down out of the sky and, at one point, forming an inhuman chain clinging tenaciously onto the back of a locomotive. It’s fast, it’s frantic and, above all, it’s fun to watch.

Our hero is Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) a wealthy fund manager who, from the very outset, presents as a man who looks after his own best interests. When he is obliged to (very reluctantly) escort his young daughter, Soo-an (the adorable Soo-an Kim) to Busan to rendezvous with her mother – from whom Seok Woo is separated – he expects nothing more than an uneventful journey. But there’s a barely glimpsed ‘incident’ at the station where the train starts from and an injured woman stumbles aboard and locks herself in the toilet. When she emerges, she is one of the undead and she quickly sets about biting everyone she encounters. This is a disease that travels like wildfire and, within minutes, the train is full of unwelcome travellers.  Seok Woo and a band of fellow passengers will have to use every trick they can think of if they hope to survive to the end of the line…

Like most zombie movies, this is more than it might at first appear. The train is a great big metaphor for humanity and it quickly becomes apparent that the most dastardly travellers on board are the ones who care only about themselves. Chief among them is Yong-Suk (Eui-sung Kim) a man who thinks nothing of flinging a helpless teenage girl to the ravening hordes in order to cause a diversion to escape their clutches. Time and again, the nice people (the socialists) are seen sacrificing themselves in order to help others. The question is, which side will Seok Woo end up on?

Don’t worry – this doesn’t feel anything like a lecture. While you could argue that Train to Busan isn’t particularly scary, it makes up for that shortfall by ramping events up to almost unbearable levels of suspense, utilising some incredible set pieces along the way. This is quite simply a cinematic thrill ride, one that grips like a vice all the way to its (heartbreaking) conclusion.

Don’t miss out. Book your ticket to ride before this one pulls out of the platform and disappears over the horizon.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney

 

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