Train to Busan


Original Title: 부산행
Release Date:
 July 20, 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-Ho
Screenplay: Yeon Sang-Ho
Cast: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-Mi, Ma Dong-Seok, Kim Soo-Ahn, Kim Eui-Sung, Choi Woo-Sik, Ahn Sohee

I’m the Ebenezer Scrooge of horror movies; first, I’m a chicken. I usually watch horror films (if I have to) in the day, so I have enough time to unwind, if it gets me. Second, I’m usually not a fan of movies that are set to just make you jump from your seat and then make you laugh uncomfortably because you’re embarrassed you just did that. Third, there’s a lot of stupid decision-making in movies where people need to die *cough*. Last, I’m not into gore, so I also tend to avoid zombie flicks where they get their choncholi and anticucho going.

With that said, I’m the last person you’d expect to tell you that Yeon Sang-Ho train-filled zombie action drama is a good one. Known for his background in animation (with the cult hit The King of Pigs), Yeon first developed his most recent animated flick Seoul Station [Trailer], in which people try to survive a zombie pandemic that’s unleashed in downtown Seoul, when one girl (Shim Eun-kyung, in her Sunny-inspired zombie cameo) enters the KTX inbound for the city of Busan, starting our Train to Busan nightmare.

In here, we follow the life of the little Soo-An (Kim S.A) who, for her birthday, asks her workaholic (and perhaps egotistic) father Seok-Woo (Gong) to take her home to her mom, who’s obviously separated. Being a crappy dad, he gives into his daughter’s wish, only to be stuck in this pandemonium.

What’s great about Train to Busan is that is not merely a cool zombie flick because Koreans ain’t afraid of their melodrama. They own it. Oh, they OWN it. Sometimes they take it to extremes [*cough*Ode to my Father*cough*], at other times they get too real, and sometimes they serve it to you in a way you never expected. But Asians, they set out to make you cry. In here, life and death feels real, sacrifice is heartfelt, making the ride on this train as satisfactory as possible.

However, no film lacks its shortcomings. Throughout this one, I felt this testosterone thing going on— all female characters are either a child, pregnant (Jung), elderly women, or a high school girl (shout out to Wonder Girls’ Sohee!). It’s, at times, exasperating, but works in the story as these women are emotional anchors; while the men, they’re evil or heroic like corpulent Sang-Hwa (Ma) who get to muster his macho strength. Save us, Ma Dong-Seok! I ate it all up, I’m sorry. I was a pile of mush at the 1.30hr mark, when I thought the whole thing should’ve been over, but it continued… and it still surprised me emotionally. I thought I wouldn’t fall for it, but I was still quite hooked to the storyline and its characters to let go.

It was a great zombie adventure!

No wonder a Train to Busan 2 is already quite a strong rumor [1][2], and a US remake is already in the work [1]. Bah humbug!

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

9 Responses

  1. Rodrigo says:

    I really enjoyed Train To Busan, but I couldn’t unsee the homeless man character as a Snowpiercer character.

    As for the testosterone and female character thing, I think you could chalk it up to the ladies being like “traditional” Korean women (I hope I don’t sound like an asshole for saying this). The pregnant woman had her limitations to go against zombies for obvious reasons, and somehow no guns were used in this film (I’m sure the pregnant woman would have gunned down zombies without any doubt, unlike the other non-developed civilians). For the lack of usual weapons in a zombie flick/series, all of them lucked out that a baseball team happened to be in the train. Otherwise, the movie would have ended a bit faster. But then again, they had smarter folks in this joint.

    Way, way, better than World War Z.

    I think the ending would have been better with the fade-to-black near the end of the film.

    • amy says:

      hahahaha “traditional Korean women” not even in Kdrama are the old ladies this quiet lol For me it’s unusual to see guns in Asian movies, so it wasn’t a biggie. You’re more likely to see someone running with a machete on hand than a gun. Guns are so American.

      It’s more emotional than WWZ, but I kept thinking someone should’ve tried chopping their hands/legs because that was the only badass moment in WWZ :P

      The fade-to-black would’ve worked would’ve worked if they had already been planning sequels, so you don’t actually know what happens. Since the rumor that TtB2 would focus on Ma Dong-Seok’s character, another one or two could focus on two other trains considering the KTX to Busan wouldn’t have been the only train running that day.

      When I mentioned that they’re already trying to make a Hollywood remake, I asked my mom who she would choose for the main role -as an Asian American actor- and she said B.D. Wong coz she’s the only A.A. actor she knows xD Otherwise it’d be Pat Morita. lol At the current imagining stage— there’s three candidates: John Cho (of course!), Daniel Dae Kim and Steven Yeun. But part of me wants it to gender-switch it to Ming Na xD She’s +50 so it wouldn’t totally fit in character timeline, but she looks younger. Grace Park is another option.

      The other choice they need to make is to go Let Me In (adapting to American setting) or going Dragon Tattoo (everyone is ‘supposedly’ Swedish and shooting in Sweden, but speaking English).

      • Rodrigo says:

        For casting of lead, my choices for the US remake:

        Asian-American: Constance Wu (would be better if Matt Damon gets to be the main antagonist), Kimiko Glenn (too young, I think, but why not?) or Lucy Liu (despite the age)
        White: Emily Blunt
        Black: Rosario Dawson or Tessa Thompson

        Asian-American: Steven Yeun or John
        White: Jake Gyllenhaal (my top choice for the US remake regardless of whomever gets the role), Paul Dano or Matt Damon (ONLY if the antagonist is Constance Wu)
        Black: Michael B. Jordan

        • Amy says:

          considering the state of things, I don’t think they will go white. And if they go Asian-American, they might want a Korean-American to boot. They could go for Daniel Henney……. or Sung Kang

          Or for African-American female, Gabrielle Union, yo!

          It bothers me that MDS line where he goes that working fathers always bear the burden of their children being pissed at them. And I’m like, UGH- PARENTS! ALL WORKING PARENTS (even though I know what you mean). lol

          You can’t have Matt Damon for the budget you’re hoping to spend on this xD He probably gets 10M-20M per picture, and that would be like half the budget, unless they plan to go all out (which is dumb). You can’t have Matt Damon for free without Ben Affleck. lol

          DUDE! WHAT IF they go for Naveen Andrews. lol British Indian is totally a possibility, and works for the train/tube change from the UK and/or switch to Europe and make it a co-production.

          Michael B. Jordan is so young though. He could be the main sportsman xD maybe change baseball to american football :P Gong Yoo is in the mid-30s-40 age bracket.

          Hollywood is ageist enough. lol

          • Rodrigo says:

            Naveen Andrews is like 47 years old.

            I thought of Chiwetel Ejiofor, but I discarded male Brits in my thoughts. Otherwise, if Brits, McAvoy, Ejiofor and maybe Manish Dayal.

            I know we can’t have Matt Damon, lol. But I’d want him for antagonist ONLY if Constance Wu starred in it and viceversa. Would have to do with Affleck for director if Damon appears.

            Could keep baseball for USA, you need bats. If Canadian film, hockey team, lol.

      • Rodrigo says:

        The sequel could go like Fear The Walking Dead: brand new characters dealing with the same scenario in a different city. Tweak some stuff, but their goal would be to reach Busan. Tough to think of a sequel, but I think it might be better off for a tv miniseries (keyword: miniseries).

        Or it could go like Warm Bodies and follow on MDS’s character as a zombie. Lol.

    • amy says:

      Also~ a lot of the women who practice sports in traditional countries are wayyyyy wayyy tougher than many of their male counterparts. lol They could’ve easily made it a women’s sports team and have them using bats to hit zombies. They could’ve had Sohee used a bat in one single scene.

  1. January 11, 2021

    […] Sequel to the South Korean superhit Train to Busan. […]

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