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Movie review

Train to Busan: More Heart Than Brains

WRITER : Admin | DATE : 22-12-01 | CATEGORY : Movies
After AMC reinvigorated interest in undead culture with their live series adaptation of the comic book “Walking Dead” back in 2011, we soon found ourselves bombarded by an endless stream of shambling, or — in most unfortunate cases — sprinting zombies. TWD to their credit amid the bloody action, preserved the social elements that the zombie mythology tried to warn us about dating back to the old George Romero classic that started it all — and that’s being able to stick to one’s morality in the midst of societal collapse wherein paranoia and survival are integral. A few of its more scholarly progeny like The Road and The Last of Us did their homework by eschewing gun battles in favor of heavier explorations of the dilemmas posed by a global pandemic.

Which is why it’s quite surprising to hear the universal acclaim heaved towards one of the more recent zombie releases and by way of South Korea in 2016’s Train to Busan. The exciting sequences and edge-of-your-seat suspense, I could understand — but for its apparent originality in exploring its themes and its effective allegories? I threw up in my mouth a little.

If anything, Train to Busan not only apes the existing tropes that zombie shows and movies have been communicating (but mostly ignored) for decades — but makes the HUGE and cringe worthy mistake of deciding for the viewers. The worst thing a movie could do is insult the intelligence of its audiences — Train to Busan takes it to another direction by robbing you of the capacity to even think.

This is largely evident with their portrayal of the lead Seok-woo — an absentee career father that’s overtly demonized as a selfish bourgeois who “sleazily” (emphasis on the air quotes) navigates an exclusive passageway arranged for him and his daughter by a colleague, then refuses to help or do anything that could impede their movement and endanger them.

On any other movie, the decision is entirely left to the viewer on how we should treat such character: Should we vilify him for not stopping others from getting nibbled on? Or do we empathize with his actions as a father to put family above all else? Is he really doing it for his daughter or for himself? With Train to Busan and its unique twist to the genre, they’d rather not give us that option. In fact, no less than two audience surrogates are planted throughout the movie to ensure that you comply with the myopic storytelling.

The most notable one is the burly Sang-hwa, who constantly admonishes the lead for always thinking of his own hide. “I heard you’re a fund manager, which means you’re an expert in leaving useless people behind” he says. A case could be made for Seok-woo’s own kin as well, as she jumps in on his case repeatedly throughout the movie for the same thing.

Another scene that’s pivotal for its use of the surrogate, takes place later on in which a small band of survivors (who just expertly eluded cars upon cars of re-animated) try to negotiate entry into a locked car filled with dozens of passengers. Since little is known about the disease, the obvious move is to refuse entry to the blood-caked (and possibly injured) party, just to lessen the risk of infection to the inhabitants of the carriage. But nope, even the fair compromise of a quarantine is considered a bad thing!

If you enjoyed Train To Busan immensely… well good for you. But let’s not mock the memory of the original Living Dead series that were more intelligent beneath the blood and guts by saying that this film broke certain grounds. It never did.