is home to one of Asia’s most important film festivals. It happens to be a fest
with a large midnight section, so they are probably no strangers to zombies.
According to rumors, Busan handled the unthinkable catastrophe better than most
Korean regional governments. Unfortunately, there are several train cars loaded with even more
shuffling undead headed straights towards the city in Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
those keeping score at home, TTB takes
place one day after the events of Yeon’s animated zombie film, Seoul Station. The morning news is
filled with mysterious reports of violent riots erupting, but the average
citizenry is still unaware a full scale zombie apocalypse has broken out.
Super-busy fund manager Seok-woo proceeds to take his unhappy young daughter
Su-an to visit her mother in Busan, exactly as planned. Obviously, if any
zombies get in, a speeding commuter train will be a terrible place to be
cornered: a confined space, packed with people, but no guns.
course, one manages to jump on at the last minute, along with uninfected
shellshock man. By the way, these are not slow zombies we are talking about.
They happen to be really darn fast. As usual for Yeon’s films, crisis brings
out the worst in humanity, especially the scummy transit executive Yong-suk.
Despite his every-man-for-himself instincts, Seok-woo will start working with a
handful of passengers to survive. The audience will especially care about
working class hardnose Sang-hwa, his mega-pregnant wife Sung-kyung, high school
baseball player Young-guk, and cheerleader, Jin-hee. Yes, they do have baseball
bats, which will be put to good use.
basically, TTB is like Under Siege 2, but with zombies instead
of Eric Bogosian. Yeon unleashes a massive undead beatdown, but it never feels
CGI’ed. Those zombies pile-ups look as real as you’re ever going to want to see
them. There is wide-ranging wreckage and a good deal of gore, but the human
emotions are also legit. There are several character sacrifices—and they are
always heavy moments. Frankly, Yeon’s only real mistake comes in killing off
too many major characters. While we respect him for respecting the principles
of zombie cinema, TBB deserves to
become a franchise, which would be easier with a few more returning faces.
Dong-seok (a.k.a. Don Lee) is just plain awesome as the brawling Sang-hwa. His
star has been steadily rising, but TTB
should send it into the stratosphere. Likewise, An So-hee scores breakout turn
as the resilient Jin-hee. Gong Yoo and Kim Su-an are certainly believable and
ultimately quite poignant as the dysfunctional father and daughter, while Kim
Eui-sung chews the scenery like Pac-Man as the odious Yong-suk. Yet, Yeon
chooses to humanize him at the most unlikely moment. That is not like the
frequently didactic filmmaker, but it sure keeps viewers off balance.
Yeon does not exactly reinvent zombie natural
history, per se, but he gives the genre a few new tweaks. However, the pedal-to-the-metal
execution will leave zombies fans in awe. It is easily the best zombie film
since Sabu’s Miss Zombie, which was
an entirely different cinematic creature. Very highly recommended for genre enthusiasts,
Train to Busan opens this Friday
(7/22) in New York, at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Korean Cinema, Ma Dong-seok, Yeon Sang-ho, Zombies