Train to Busan, directed by Sang-ho Yuen, is a South Korean action thriller about a group of people trapped on a high speed train as a zombie infection breaks out across the country. The film features acting performances by Yoo Gong, Dong-seok Ma, Woo-sik Choi, Yu-mi Jeong, Soo-an Kim, and Sohee.
South Korean cinema is well known for at times being very dramatic and drawing on some intensely emotional story telling and this film is no exception. Yes, you read that right, this zombie action thriller also includes a very dramatic story and more than a couple tear jerker type moments and it all somehow works very well together. From start to finish, this film is thoroughly entertaining and filled with some really great action sequences and fight scenes that are above and beyond what I was expecting. Director Sang-ho Yuen has done a great job of creating the type of big budget spectacle that rivals anything Hollywood is currently putting out and yet it is so much more than just a collection of explosions and special effects.
Sang-ho Yuen is also listed as the author of the screenplay for this movie and, in that role, he has gone to great lengths in weaving multiple story lines into the overall narrative to give the spectacle a solid foundation to work with. We start off by getting to know Seok Woo and his daughter Soo-an, both of whom are feeling the stress of a broken family and how the father's pride and selfishness are keeping him at a safe yet unfulfilled existence. There is also a couple who is expecting a child, a businessman who believes he is a very important person, a group of young men who are members of a baseball team, the workers on the train, and several other smaller, yet no less important roles. For me, this is where the movie really separates itself and becomes something really special as we get to know who these people are in meaningful ways which makes the danger that much more important, especially when you begin to realize that no one is safe during this disastrous and deadly adventure.
The two main characters are Seok Woo, the corporate man played by Yoo Gong, and Sang Hwa, the expectant father played by Dong-seok Ma. Gong portrays his character as a man who is so caught up in living his life as a corporate success story, he has become weak and selfish and barely recognizes that his daughter loves him no matter how much he continues to mess up their already broke family. Dong-seok Ma plays the classic tough guy who is also a loving husband and is basically the opposite of Seok Woo in just about every way. This leads to a really interesting dynamic as they are forced to settle their differences while working together and learning from each other to survive. While the rest of the cast is filled with solid performances, these two men carry the film and are a lot of the reason why you end up so emotionally invested in the story.
Train to Busan is one of the best movies I have watched this year. It pretty much has everything you could want: action, special effects, drama, story, emotion, and of course, zombies. Lots of zombies. The best way to compare this film to something you might be more familiar with would be to take World War Z, combine it with Snowpiercer, and then add in a story that will have you emotionally exhausted by the time the credits role.