Train to Busan made its premiere in 2016, to critical acclaim. Said to be the first zombie movie in South Korea, the film is set in the country that was ravaged in a zombie apocalypse.
Although the focus of the movie was the adrenaline-pumping action, Train to Busan offers a lot to the table. Unpacking the film, you get themes like the love of father for their daughter, as well as social commentary on class equality.
I watched Train to Busan when it premiered in the Philippines in 2016, and while I’m not the biggest zombie apocalypse film fan, I gave it a watch and love it.
Now, it’s streaming on Netflix. Part of me hesitated on re-watching it, given the current situation. But I caved.
For first-time viewers, Train to Busan tells the story of a single father Seok Woo (Gong Yoo) who takes the KTX 101 to Busan with his daughter Su An (Kim Su An). A zombie apocalypse suddenly breaks out, threatening their safety and of other passengers.
In the process of trying to survive and make it to Busan, father and daughter encounter fellow passengers—Sang Hwa (Ma Dong Seok) and his pregnant wife Seong Kyeong (Jung Yu Mi), as well as high school baseball team member Yong Guk (Choi Woo Shik) and his girlfriend Jin Hee (Ahn So Hee). Oh, and there’s also this businessman Yon Suk (Kim Eui Sung) who cares for no one else but himself.
Hold on to the edges of your seats
As I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of the zombie genre. But, Train to Busan made me understand why movies about the zombie apocalypse make for a compelling watch.
Unlike the zombies you see in early films (and in Plants vs. Zombies), Train to Busan’s mindless killing machines are fast and violent. They’ll lunge for you, and sometimes they’ll come to you in groups. You’re safe only when darkness falls.
And then there’s the claustrophobia brought by the confined spaces of the train. There’s the added stress of knowing that the characters are stuck in limited spaces, and once the zombies are within their distance, they’re done for. But these limitations are also what makes the action scenes worthwhile.
Train to Busan hits close to home
Although the action and cinematography are noteworthy, it’s the appeal to emotions that make Train to Busan a memorable watch.
Now that I’m watching this in 2020, I think that the film reflects people in times of crisis, like now. There are people like Sang Hwa who will not hesitate to extend a hand to anyone who needs help. And there are people like Seok Woo who are reluctant at first but end up helping, too.
Of course, there are also people like Yon Suk who are willing to push other passengers in front of a horde of zombies just so he’s safe.
And it will frustrate you to see real life being mirrored in a zombie film, especially if you see yourself in Yon Suk. But the thing is, will it encourage you to change?
The main takeaway?
Watching Train to Busan may have premiered four years ago, but its message is relevant more than ever. In challenging times, it’s important to look out for each other. As for the people who save themselves instead? Karma will get them eventually.
Train to Busan is available for streaming on Netflix.