What happened to the classic zombie? They used to make a lot of noise move slowly and deliberately and act in a mindless manner. Today's version are light on their feet, resourceful and work as a team to attack their human prey. The modern version is very much on display in Yeon Sang- ho's Train to Busan. The film is the director's second of the year having completed an animated Zombie piece Seoul Station that plays as a companion to this production.
Sang-ho's Zombies turn very fast, signaled by veins creeping across the skin, milky white eyes followed by a contortion of the body and a snap of the back. As always with Zombie pictures the audience is looking for how the infection will spread. Who is patient zero and the unlucky person that will be bit first. The film delivers the answer early on in the first reel.
It's early morning when Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) a high stakes fund manager sets out to bring his daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an) to see his estranged wife who lives in Busan. They board the train with Soek-woo buried in his phone as the narrative introduces several key people on the trip including a pregnant woman ( Jung Yu-Mi) the protective father to be Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok) along with a baseball team and an uptight business executive Yong-suk ( Choui Woo-sik). Just before the train leaves an obviously sick young girl stumbles on sporting pronounced creeping veins on her legs giving us our patient zero.
Several hot button issues in Korean society are discussed over the next 118 minutes class snobbery being the first as the train employees are more concerned with a homeless man held up in a bathroom rather than the infected girl that just entered the train. Seok-woo is the embodiment of the over working businessman. He has to ask his junior colleague what to get his daughter for her birthday then gets her the same thing he did for the last holiday. He also scolds Su-an on two occasions once when she does something on the train for someone else then later when she wants to share vital information with the other passengers. The actions of the authorities are also brought into question as they were in Seoul Station. The storyline predicts a kill everyone in the quarantined zone stance opposed to helping survivors to safety. Lastly the piece touches on the dangers of mob mentality. The perpetrators seeming getting their just reward soon after they take their stand.
The action sequences in the film are extraordinary. The speedy Zombies add the hectic frantic pace. The first shout of RUN after patient zero bites her first victim sets off a wave of passengers attempting to make their way to the other end of the train. Riders are bit, turn, then bite others as the rush goes on. The next occurs when the KXT 101 leaves the first stop full of infected soldiers. As the train pulls out the zombies crash though an upper window cartwheeling down on the train below. The third shows the Zombies working together as they throw themselves at the back o a caboose building a ramp to get at the humans onboard.
Train to Busan is lightning fast white-knuckle ride on a Korean Bullet train. Gong Yoo leads the cast as Seok-woo who transforms from cold and calculated to embracing teamwork and sacrifice. There is not a weak link in the supporting cast. Director Yeon Sang- ho uses the vehicle to point out South Korean societal issues. The breakneck pace featuring sharp dialogue backed by stunning visuals make it a film I can recommend.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
Train to Busan | Yeon Sang- ho | South Korea | 2016 | 118 minutes.
Tags; Fund Manager, Civil Unrest, Bullet Train, KTX 101,Quarantine, Zombie, Birthday, Teamwork. Seoul, Busan.