A solid production overall and interesting, South Korean take on the zombie genre.

Train to Busan is horror as it should be: intelligent, fun, and celebrating life with every mad twist and new take on death that it can find. Director Yeon Sang-ho makes smart use of the cramped quarters, and while it’s true that his zombies’ abilities tend to vary according to the requirements of the moment, it’s easy to overlook amid the onslaught of action and emotion. A zombie movie content not to aspire to any loftier subtextual readings needs little more than a skilled choreographer of action, and there’s plenty of evidence that this film had one in Yeon. Although it’s predominantly horror, many of the concepts wisely double as opportunities to comment on the government’s inability to handle widespread predicaments.

Pure suspenseful, emotional, chaotic excellence.

Gong Yoo as Seok-woo, a fund manager whose wife left him because of his selfishness.
Kim Su-an as Su-an, daughter of Seok-woo who wants to see her mom in Busan for her birthday.
Ma Dong-seok as Yoon Sang-hwa, husband of Seong-kyeong
Jung Yu-mi as Seong-kyeong, Sang-hwa’s pregnant wife
Choi Woo-shik as Min Yong-guk, a high school baseball player
Ahn So-hee as Kim Jin-hee, a friend of Yong-guk’s
Kim Eui-sung as Yon-suk, a business executive
Choi Gwi-hwa as a homeless man
Jang Hyuk-jin as Ki-chul, a train attendant
Park Myung-sin as Jong-gil, an elderly woman
Ye Soo-jung as In-gil, the older sister of Jong-gil
Jeong Seok-yong as the captain of the KTX
Han Seong-soo as the KTX train Team Leader
Kim Chang-hwan as Deputy Kim Jin-mo
Shim Eun-kyung as a runaway girl
Lee Joo-shil as Seok-woo’s mother and Su-an’s grandmother

Although a simple concept, suspenseful and emotional

A chemical leak at a biotech plant causes the start of a zombie apocalypse that rapidly spreads across South Korea.

Fund manager Seo Seok-woo is a cynical workaholic and divorced father. His young daughter Su-an wants to spend her birthday with her mom in Busan. He tries to soothe her with the gift of a Wii, forgetting that she already has one. He watches a video of Su-an suffering from stage fright while singing “Aloha ‘Oe” at a recital he could not attend. Overcome with guilt, he decides to take her to Busan via an early KTX 101 train from Seoul Station. Other passengers include working-class man Yoon Sang-hwa and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong; selfish COO Yon-suk; a high school baseball team that includes baseball player Min Yong-guk and his girlfriend the cheerleader Kim Jin-hee; train attendant Ki-chul; elderly sisters In-gil and Jong-gil; and a homeless stowaway.

As the train departs, signs of chaos from the infection reach the station, and an infected woman runs aboard, unnoticed, just before the doors close. She soon turns into a zombie, attacks an attendant, and many crew and passengers are quickly turned into zombies. The remaining passengers secure themselves in the front and rear cars, observing that the infected zombies only attack if they can see them or hear them, but they cannot operate the train’s doors. They learn from news reports of the rapidly-spreading epidemic across the country, and Seok-woo discovers the biotech plant was connected to his business. He uses his connections to try to secure safe travels for Su-an and himself.

The train stops at Daejeon Station, supposedly secured by the South Korean Army. The passengers disembark into a vacant station, but soon find the soldiers have become zombies, who quickly charge the group. Several passengers are attacked and killed as they race back to the train, while most of the surviving ones safely board the front cars. Su-an, Seong-kyeong, In-gil, and the homeless man find themselves between two cars of zombies and manage to take shelter in the restrooms. Seok-woo, Yong-guk, Sang-hwa and two of Yong-guk’s three surviving classmates, having stayed back to provide cover, race to board the moving train, though Yong-guk’s friends are killed and infected during the escape, and end up in the back cars. The captain drives the train to Busan after learning it has been established as a quarantine zone.

Learning of their trapped loved ones, Seok-woo’s group uses the darkness of tunnels along the route to cross through the zombie-filled cars and rescue them. The group continues moving towards the safe front cars but inadvertently alerts the zombies in the last car before the safe one. Seok-woo and Sang-hwa stay back to hold the doors closed while the others escape, but Yon-suk has convinced Ki-chul and the other passengers that they are potentially infected and they should not help. After hearing her boyfriend calling, Jin-hee attempts to save them but it restrained by the other passengers. Sang-hwa is bitten and infected, and sacrifices himself to give Seok-woo time to get the others to safety. In-gil sacrifices herself too to give time to the other survivors to lock the door.

Yon-suk and Ki-chul lead the other passengers in the front cars to force Seok-woo’s group into a closed vestibule, believing they are infected. Jong-gil is shaken by the passengers’ selfishness and, after thanking In-gil for everything, lets the zombies into the front car, killing the other survivors, though Yon-suk and Ki-chul manage to escape into a restroom. The train is forced to stop near East Daegu train station due to a blocked track, forcing the survivors to seek a new train. Yon-suk, in his escape, pushes Ki-chul, Jin-hee and the captain into a pack of zombies; Yong-guk stays with Jin-hee until she reanimates and kills him. An out-of-control train causes a derailment, trapping Seok-woo, Su-an, Seong-kyeong, and the homeless man under a train car. The homeless man sacrifices himself to hold back a zombie horde while the others escape out a small hole, finding a working locomotive. After releasing a train from a horde of zombies holding it back, they head toward Busan, when a zombified Yon-suk attacks Seok-woo and bites him before Seok-woo can throw him from the engine. Knowing he will turn into a zombie, he quickly teaches Seong-kyeong how to operate the train and says his farewells to his sobbing daughter before succumbing to the virus and throwing himself off the engine.

Seong-kyeong and Su-an are forced to stop at a blocked train tunnel just before Busan and walk. At the tunnel’s exit, military snipers prepare to fire until they hear Su-an sob singing “Aloha ‘Oe”. They then realize that the pair are human, and help them to safety.

Movie Information

Release date: July 2016 (South Korea)
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Sequel: Peninsula
Language: Korean
Box office: $98.5 million
Music by: Jang Young-gyu

Peter Ahn

Peter Ahn

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