October 3, 2022

Train to Busan is a zombie apocalypse set on a train (well actually multiple trains); it’s both exactly what I expected and much better than what I expected. There’s no real detail or plot point that I can point to make a case for why this movie is so special; it’s all in the execution. The pace, the structure, and the performances are all great.

Train to Busan is one of the greatest Zombie movies I’ve ever seen.

Train to Busan is a zombie apocalypse set on a train (well actually multiple trains); it’s both exactly what I expected and much better than what I expected. There’s no real detail or plot point that I can point to make a case for why this movie is so special; it’s all in the execution. The pace, the structure, and the performances are all great.

Honestly I just don’t have that much to say about this movie as far as a review goes. It’s just so comfortable in it’s own skin. Most zombie movies are juvenile, not just because they’re silly but also because they feel like they still have growing up to do. Whether that means protecting themselves in a sheath of irony, or by posing and trying to be a piece of explicit social commentary at the expense of just being a story. Which is not to say that those approaches can’t work, but they’re easy traps that zombie movies often fall into.

And it’s not like this is just brainless zombie action. It’s just that the movie is more interested in its characters and how they act under this extreme, particular kind of situation than it is in talking directly at its audience about something else. The human anxiety at the center of this is the anxiety of a shitty workaholic father trying to protect his daughter (who he never gave enough of his time or attention) in the face of a disaster; and there’s plenty of other human drama on top of that too. My point is that the zombie apocalypse representing some other real world thing doesn’t enhance that human drama, but it can get in the way of it. The abstraction accentuates the core human drama instead of confusing it.

Another trap Train to Busan avoids is that guns do not really factor in here. Guns so often become an easy solution to the zombie problem, they demystify and re-empower characters in a setting designed to make them helpless. There’s a place for that, but it’s such a common feature that seeing a movie without that is so refreshing. It means that every encounter a character has with a zombie is that much more intense and dangerous. When our heroes do have to fight back they have to do so in close combat; it makes for more visceral and satisfying action, and keeps the possibility of getting bit a constant risk.

The effects… are just ok, they’re serviceable but unremarkable. That’s one area where this movie just cannot compete with something like Return of the Living Dead which is so full of amazing and memorable zombie effects.

Train to Busan is just great all the way through; and it nails the ending. It’s fucking perfect. It just is.