The undead are born again
TRAIN TO BUSAN ★★★★ Directed by Yeon Sang-ho. Starring Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee. Club, Light House Cinema, D7, 118mins
Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), a divorced fund manager and distant dad, takes his young daughter Soo-an (Kim Su-an) to see her mother in Busan as a birthday gift.
On board the high-speed train, we encounter two squabbling, elderly sisters, a gregarious bruiser and his heavily pregnant wife, a self-serving executive, a lively gang of teenagers, and a young woman with a bite wound, who soon pounces on an attendant.
Before you know it, a plucky group of survivors – including Yoo and Su-an – are attempting to hold fast against an encroaching horde of zombies. Will they ever get to Busan? And has Busan fallen to the same catastrophic infection?
Almost 60 years since George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead made its bow, and some seven seasons deep into The Walking Dead, one would imagine that the zombie apocalypse sub-genre is surely running out of fresh brains.
Narratively speaking, Train to Busan, forms a pleasing, if familiar shape. Its mild-mannered, office-bound hero has to get violent and resourceful, while learning that perhaps his daughter is more important than his job and that maybe, just maybe, people are more important than profit.
Unlikely alliances are formed between working-class heroes and their financial betters. There are echoes of Snowpiercer in the film’s depiction of societal collapse. The SFX are very post- World War Z.
But, as with Romero’s still-peerless original, Train to Busan infects its zombie DNA
with a keen social and political awareness. Director Yeon Sang-ho is best known for the festival-circuit anime favourites The King of Pigs and The
Fake, which similarly worked weighty themes and plotlines into cartoonish forms.
Pay attention for this new, wildly entertaining B-movie is the most nuanced monster movie since Bong Joon-ho’s
The Host (2006). Its whiteknuckle chases and gory wounds speak to corporate responsibility, xenophobia and the new neo-liberal class struggle.
Never mind the flesh feasters: gaze in horror as a privileged few refuse to open the door to other survivors. Humanity may be worth saving, suggests director Yeon Sang-ho, but human beings mostly suck. No wonder Soo-an (the excellent Kim Su-an) cries all the way to the tragic denouement.