* reviews of things i found on (mostly) netflix *
* now with spoilers *
Train to Busan
A father struggling to balance his work commitments with his daughter’s needs finds himself accompanying her on the train to Busan to see her mother. The daughter is unhappy with him because he phoned in her birthday – as he seems to phone in a lot of his interactions with her – and he in fact missed her musical presentation at school, even though she had been practicing the song specifically for him. She no longer has much faith in him, and she’s going to her mother’s because she doesn’t want to be with him.
Unfortunately for her, for her father, and for everyone else on the train, a zombie apocalypse has begun.
As everyone tries to learn what’s going on and what they should do to be safe, the girl and her father are separated, as are a blustery man and his pregnant wife, an athlete and his girlfriend, and a pair of elderly sisters. To complicate matters, a pompous businessman has responded to the entire situation with fear and panic-mongering, turning many of the train passengers against one another. And the zombies in this particular apocalypse are fast-moving, making it hard to get ahead of them.
Several of the zombie scenes are visually engaging and offer a few images that I hadn’t seen in other zombie films. The atmosphere of confusion is effective; it’s easy to place ourselves in the place of the trapped train passengers. The zombies aren’t intelligent, and some of the strategies to escape them are almost too good to be true, but of course they always end up right-behind-you. The pompous businessman’s panic is well-presented, and we’re genuinely disappointed in him and everyone who listens to him.
The relationship between the little girl and her father is realistic, and she remains fiercely independent until the very end of the film, not re-opening her heart to him until dire circumstances threaten to take him away from her forever. Because it’s realistic, their emotional reunion is particularly touching.
We don’t even ultimately hate the businessman – although he’s caused more than one problem – because his pomposity is revealed to be a cover, and he’s really just a pitifully scared man looking for assurance of safety, much like any of us.
Ultimately, Train to Busan tweaked the standard formulas of character stereotypes and group dynamics, offering something with a little more feeling and more creativity. The fast-moving zombies provide an effective tension, and the zombie scenes are entertaining. The little girl’s performance is believable and compelling. And because some of the elements – such as the father’s phone calls with his colleague who’s asking if this is their fault – are delivered subtly, we find ourselves thinking about them long after the movie has ended, encouraging us to watch it again.
Overall, this is an incredible zombie film and an excellent film in general.
10 out of 10