Train to Busan

Train to Busan

WHAT I HAVE LEARNT FROM …

“Train to Busan”.

The title of this movie is already catching enough for me to pay more attention to what this is all about. After watching it at the cinema, I would say this is the Best Movie I have watched in 2016 so far.

I like the fact that the setup is simple, the action begins almost immediately, and while the focus is centered on the train and its occupants Yeon (who also wrote the film) ensures we see the scope of what’s happening around them. Landscape shots of Seoul and other, smaller cities and towns show civilization in collapse. News broadcasts on-board the train reveal to viewers and passengers alike the breadth and hopelessness of the infection’s reach.

The zombie action here most closely resembles the likes of World War Z with the infected moving quickly, with deadly purpose, and occasionally brought to life in horde-form via CG. Sound design and sharp visuals lend an immediacy to their snapping teeth and contorting limbs, and as individuals or masses they never look less than threatening and frightful.

While the visuals are familiar what sets Yeon’s film apart are its competing themes of putting others first and the idea that no good deed goes unpunished. “At a time like this,” says Seok-woo to his daughter, “only watch out for yourself.” It’s a lesson she refuses to learn choosing instead to see others in need as people deserving of help, and instead it’s her father who’s forced to accept the error in his thinking. He’s a slow learner though as evidenced by his decision to leave his daughter behind three times too often. His re-education is supported by his daughter’s pleading, but it’s enforced through the actions of a fellow traveler, Sang Hwa (Ma Dong-seok). Oddly, Sang is the far more charismatic and engaging of the characters here, and as he fights to protect his pregnant wife it’s difficult not to wish he had been the focus.

Still, that contrast between doing good and paying the price for such efforts is a thought-provoking endeavor. It’s an impossible choice but one these characters are forced to make again and again through set-pieces that thrill with fast-paced action and nerve-wracking suspense. Their moral flip-side is present in the character of a businessman who literally throws people aside to save his own skin. He’s essentially a cartoon villain and a genre cliche, but he works as the counterpoint to little Su-an’s innocence.

The clash between self-sacrifice and self-preservation is complemented by observations on class and the corporate versus the social worlds. The passengers are fairly well divided — businessmen, regular folks, high school kids — but the ingrained respect for authority sees fearful passengers lining up behind the selfish, middle-aged man in a tie who rallies the crowd to do his bidding. It’s reminiscent of The Mist’s supermarket divide, sans religion of course, and it’s a reminder of the dangers in mob mentality. The media doesn’t escape Yeon’s critique either as the news reports are layered with misinformation presumably to maintain control and prevent panic but ultimately leading to more death.

Train to Busan is a follow-up, of sorts, to Yeon’s previous film, the animated Seoul Station, that explores the beginning of the infection and ends at its title locale. It’s Yeon’s third animated feature after the emotionally devastating King of Pigs and equally dramatic The Fake, but while his two zombie endeavors are far more entertainment-oriented his lean towards commentary on the human condition remains.

The above review are taken reference from filmschoolrejects

 

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