Ferociously fun and frantically-paced, Train to Busan follows a group of passengers as they battle for survival when a lethal virus begins to rapidly spread from city to city. Bulldozing from Seoul to Busan, the carnage which prevails both inside and outside the train’s carriages makes this undeniably one of the most riveting contributions to the genre’s modern era.
While many contemporary zombie films sometimes suffer from a sense of humour breakdown, Train to Busan gleefully embraces the dark and disturbing comedy found in the work of pioneers like David Cronenberg, Dan O’Bannon and George A. Romero. Characters including Sang-hwa (portrayed by Ma Dong-seok), a hulking powerhouse who fist-fights his way through the infected, carriage by carriage, and a team of bat-wielding baseball players deliver some of the finest quips and creative executions since Shaun of the Dead. These sardonic elements, however, are balanced with emphatic characters, frenzied enemies and sharp camerawork, ensuring that the film’s anxious torsion maintains its focus.
The tension between self-preservation and altruistic heroism (the defining theme of the genre) is not expressed with the depth of efforts like The Girl with All the Gifts (review here), but the overwhelming strengths of Train to Busan cannot be denied. Claustrophobic suspense, dizzying violence and a relentless rhythm torpedo the plot line and characters at breakneck speed. It’s perhaps the best action-based zombie experience since The Walking Dead — not to mention one of the most gripping South Korean thrillers since the Vengeance Trilogy.
28 October 2016