I finally did it, you guys. I finally watched Train To Busan, after having skirted it for years.
I’ve been hearing great things about it, even from non-zombie flick fans, but had been reluctant to check it out, because I’ve always been a self-declared horror wuss. And a train full of zombies just felt like a bit much, to me. 😅
But today, I’ve finally decided to give it a try, since I’ve managed to enjoy some horror-themed shows like Happiness (zombies!) and Sweet Home (blood and monsters!), and whaddya know – this one’s not that hard to enjoy, after all!
I.. guess I’m less of a horror wuss than I’d thought, heh. 😁
Psst: Links to watch are at the end of the review!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Seok Woo (Gong Yoo) agrees to take his daughter Soo An (Kim Soo An) to Busan to see her mom on her birthday, but an unexpected zombie outbreak occurs.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
The main thing I’d like to mention in this section, is:
It’s not that scary, really.
I know. Lots of folks tried to tell me this, too, in their efforts to persuade me to check this out, and I found it hard to believe them.
But this is me – the self-declared horror wuss – saying that it’s really not that bad.
There’s some blood, but it’s not of the gratuitous gushy variety.
The zombies aren’t that scary to look at either.
Their eyes turn an ashy shade of white (you can just think of it as the actors wearing white contact lenses; that might help), and they mostly hiss a lot, and sometimes they bite, and that’s about it.
STUFF I LIKED
Gong Yoo as Seok Woo
First, let’s get the shallow stuff outta the way: I had not expected much in the way of eye candy, because this is a zombie show and all, but man, I gotta say, Gong Yoo‘s looking mighty fine in this.
My eyes; they did not complain. 😍
On a less shallow note, I really appreciated the character development we get, for Seok Woo.
He starts our story appearing to be quite heartless, and ready to throw people to the curb, if it meant his own survival.
And yet, by the middle of our story, he’s learned that it’s important to look out for others, and that there is value and power in solidarity.
The beats around these are moderate, as in, Show doesn’t hit us over the head with it, but I appreciate that these beats are there, and are given sufficient room to breathe, so that we are sure to pick up on and appreciate the changes in Seok Woo.
Seok Woo and Soo An
The relationship between Seok Woo and Soo An is a central one, since the whole reason they’re on the way to Busan, is because Soo An requests it.
When we start our story, the relationship with Seok Woo and Soo An is distant at best, with Seok Woo being quite the absent father.
Therefore, I found it quite touching to see Seok Woo fight to protect Soo An, over the course of our story.
He might have appeared distant and distracted, but his heart for Soo An had always been there, and as we see from the way he’d put himself in harm’s way in order to protect Soo An, he would do anything, to keep her safe.
I love this little handhold that we get, midway through our story, because it’s the first overt moment of tenderness that Seok Woo and Soo An share, after having been distant for so long, and therefore, this moment feels precious and significant. ❤️
Sang Hwa and Sung Kyung
It’s not long into the train ride, that we’re introduced to Sang Hwa and Sung Kyung (Ma Dong Seok and Jung Yu Mi), a couple who’s expecting their first child.
I kinda loved the running gag of Sang Hwa being a whipped puppy for Sung Kyung, but a tough badass in all other ways. I thought that was cute.
I also really liked Sang Hwa and Sung Kyung, for being kind to Soo An, and taking care of her, during the times when she’s separated from Seok Woo. That endeared them to me extra, for sure.
Young Guk and Jin Hee
I thought it was pretty fun to see Choi Woo Sik and Ahn So Hee show up as high schoolers Young Guk and Jin Hee.
Not only was it good to see more familiar faces, it also felt like a nice rounding out of our key cast, to have high schoolers and their youthful energy in the mix.
When strangers come together
One of the things I really enjoyed, was the sight of people who otherwise didn’t know one another, actually come together to fight for a common goal.
I especially liked that Sang Hwa and Seok Woo came to a better understanding, after having started things on the wrong foot.
In particular, I appreciated that moment when Sang Hwa even encourages Seok Woo, that one day, Soo An would come to understand why he’d worked so hard, and why he hadn’t had time to play with her much.
That felt kind and compassionate, made even more so, by the fact that this is all said in the midst of a situation where they could be attacked by zombies at any time.
There is some less than nice behavior on display, in our story, and I found it thought-provoking, because these aren’t evil monsters. These are just regular people who’ve suddenly found themselves in an extraordinary situation.
I had to wonder what I would have done, if I’d found myself in their shoes. Would I also have made selfish demands, out of fear for my life?
It’s stuff like this that makes this movie feel deeper than a mindless zombie flick.
On a tangent, I also wanted to mention that similar to Happiness, the zombies here are viewed as the infected.
What’s different here, is that there is no facility where the infected are kept, in attempts to treat them.
I rationalize that this is the actual beginning of the outbreak, and that things would have likely looked similar, in the early stages of the infection, in Happiness’s story world.
When the zombie infection has just started, and the infection numbers are exploding, it makes sense that everyone’s reflex response is to survive at all costs – even if it means treating the zombies, who’d recently been human, just like the next person, as monsters.
I found this bit thought-provoking as well.
Like, as disturbing as it is, that our core team bludgeons Young Guk’s zombie-infected teammates on their heads, is there really anything else they could have done, if they wanted to survive..?
Is there anything else that I would have done differently, if I had been in their shoes..?
Those are some pertinent questions indeed.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
In true zombie movie fashion (not that I’ve seen all that many, ha, but I imagine this to be the case), we start to lose more and more of our core cast, as we get nearer the end of our story.
I was gutted to lose Sang Hwa, because I think he’s great. I found him lovable and badass, all at once, and he was such an asset to the team.
It was a truly poignant moment, when he asks Seok Woo to take care of Sung Kyung for him, as he sacrifices himself, in order to buy the group some time.
I mean, I kinda knew that he was a goner the moment he got bitten in the hand, but it was still really sad to see him make this decision.
And, it’s so poignant that the person to whom he entrusts the safety of his wife, is none other than Seok Woo, whom he’d found pretty hateful, to begin with.
Afterwards, I found it tragic that we lose both Jin Hee and Young Guk, in quick succession.
It’s utterly horrible that the COO dude (Kim Eui Sung) pushes Jin Hee towards the zombies as a decoy, in order to save himself, but again, when it comes to a life and death situation like that, it’s really hard to say what you would do, in his place.
And then, as Jin Hee turns, it’s so heartbreaking to see Young Guk cry over her, and then basically give himself up to her.
I tend to think that he chooses to do this, because she’d told him that she would follow him wherever he went, and now, he’s returning the gesture, by going where she’s gone. Sob. 😭
In the end, though, the sacrifice that gets me in the heart the most, is the one that Seok Woo makes for Soo An (and Sung Kyung, who’s with her).
The way things were going, I suppose it’s not that much of a shocker, that Seok Woo would end up sacrificing his life in order to protect Soo An, but still, the way it’s done manages to get me, right in the heart.
In that small window of time before he turns, after getting bitten, he does whatever he can, to secure Soo An’s safety, and hold her hand, and then he gets outta there and hides at the end of the carriage, so that she won’t have to see him turn.
And then how surprisingly poignant, that when he does turn, we see that his thoughts are filled with the moments when he’d first held Soo An in his arms, right after she’d been born.
The joy then, and the joy now, in his face, is unmistakable, and I’m completely moved by his love for his little girl.
Following this, the way he then allows himself to fall off the moving train – again, in order to protect his little girl – is so willing and graceful, that I’m completely gutted.
Such a willing sacrifice, made with what feels like a sense of.. peace.
I’m pretty convinced that Seok Woo’s dying thoughts are probably along the lines of, “If this is the last thing that I can do for my little girl, then this was a life well lived.” 😭
I’m utterly relieved that Soo An and Sung Kyung end up surviving, coz Show really had me going for a hot second, that they would be killed by those soldiers, as a preemptive measure.
THANK GOODNESS those soldiers heard the song that Soo An was singing – for her dad! – and concluded that this meant they couldn’t be infected.
How completely poignant, that in this way, Seok Woo ends up saving his daughter, not once, but twice.
Such profound fatherly love, given so freely; as beautiful as it is bittersweet. 😭❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Engaging, heartfelt and thought-provoking, despite its zombie premise.
FINAL GRADE: B++
WHERE TO WATCH:
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