Train to Busan (aka Busanhaeng) review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Yeah, Train To Busan is a mixed bag. Let’s start with the obvious, which is also the good: Train To Busan features an interesting premise, a good build-up, some interesting characters (not the main guy), and a somewhat fresh take at the currently-overdone genre of Zombie flicks. Where Train To Busan falters is its inability to provide any real motivation to its characters amidst the backdrop of a zombie infestation gone-awry. And don’t give me all that “but zombies can be treated as a separate character in the film, and so forth”. Yes, you would be correct if you would assume zombies can become a character in and of themselves/itself, but this can take the film barely so far until it the premise breaks apart. Or until either the filmmakers or the audience gets bored, and here we’re witnessing the occurrence of the latter.
Train To Busan is directed by Sang-ho Yeon, penned by Joo-Suk Park and Sang-ho Yeon, and stars Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Sohee, and Su-an Kim in the main roles. The film follows Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) in his quest to right some previous wrongs to his daughter, possibly part of a bigger negligent nature that has been going around in the family for a while. And right of the bat, we have a problem. Namely, the quintessential male superhero (or ordinary guy, makes no difference) is a bad husband and a worse father because he works a lot in order to provide. Do you see a pattern here? Sure, this has been the case ever since ancient times of blind poets and mysterious scribes (negligent fathers = bad fathers), but Train To Busan takes the easy way out and introduces conflict where there shouldn’t be one (instead of introducing fatal flaws in the form of negligence, these fathers should be the heroes of the story because they provide).
Rant aside, Train To Busan is not a very good zombie flick nonetheless. Sure, there are people trapped on a moving train, sure there are also fast-running mindless zombies who want nothing more than fresh flesh, and sure enough – there’s also the trope of biting and getting infected at once; my main point? Just as the film, I don’t have one. In fact, if you happened to see Every Frame A Painting’s Video about telling a story in a captivating way, you would know where Train To Busan’s choke points are. If not, let me break it down for you: event A happens, then event B happens, THEN event C… The problem we have here comes in the form of THEN; events happen without any real precedence or value, and so they quickly lose their agency and thus the audience gets bored. The solution? “Meanwhile, back at the ranch”, and “therefore & but”. By employing these narrative techniques, Train To Busan could possibly get some juice (it’s too late now, isn’t it?).
Bottom line, if you want a film about zombies, Train To Busan fits the bill alright, but there are better choices to be had as well.