Train to Bu­san

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Bu­san. Train to Bu­san’s Train to Bu­san The Fake Train to The

We live in a time when Amer­i­cans are sharply di­vided, as news out­lets in­sist on re­mind­ing us in this po­lar­ized elec­tion cy­cle. Maybe a good zom­bie in­fes­ta­tion is what it will take to bring the coun­try to­gether again. It works, to some ex­tent, for a train full of dis­parate Kore­ans in

Young and old, rich and poor, men and women must put aside their dif­fer­ences and band to­gether against a horde of the re­cently de­ceased, or in­fected, or some­thing. De­tails are sketchy. The film opens with in­spec­tors stop­ping a truck to spray it down as it passes through a toll­booth. The driver is told, “There was a tiny leak at the biotech dis­trict” be­fore be­ing sent on his way. An omi­nous note is thus struck, then un­der­scored by the truck’s col­li­sion with a deer shortly there­after. Bum­mer — only the deer won’t stay dead.

writer-di­rec­tor, Yeon Sang-ho, wraps the film’s nar­ra­tive around a par­ent-child re­la­tion­ship. Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is a hedge-fund man­ager in Seoul who is sep­a­rated from his wife and too pre­oc­cu­pied with work to pay much at­ten­tion to his daugh­ter, Su-an (Kim Su-an). As a way of mak­ing up for his fail­ings as a fa­ther, Seok-woo agrees to take time off to ac­com­pany Su-an on a trip to see her mother in the coastal city of Bu­san. They board the train just as in­ci­dents like the one in­volv­ing the deer are spread­ing, with mobs of re­an­i­mated corpses set­ting upon the liv­ing. In­evitably, the mal­ady reaches the pas­sen­ger com­part­ments.

Hor­ror al­ways works best in con­fined spa­ces, and the cars of the Korea Train Ex­press from Seoul to Bu­san, nar­row and sep­a­rated only by slid­ing­glass doors, pro­vide the per­fect back­drop for the mount­ing ter­ror. The cin­e­matog­ra­phy and di­rec­tion ex­pertly con­vey a vis­ceral sense of dan­ger here. The in­fected spill over each other in roil­ing waves, bro­ken limbs flail­ing, eyes glazed, mouths wide and scar­let. The re­cently bit­ten lift and spin into ac­tion like break­dancers, herky-jerky. They are re­lent­less.

Train to Bu­san is Yeon’s live-ac­tion fea­ture de­but. His pre­vi­ous ef­forts King of Pigs (2011) and (2013) gar­nered fes­ti­val buzz and es­tab­lished the film­maker’s rep­u­ta­tion for can­didly ad­dress­ing dis­turb­ing ma­te­rial in an­i­ma­tion, which makes the some­times sac­cha­rine tone of

sur­pris­ing. The sink­ing feel­ing of so­ci­ety de­scend­ing into panic, chaos, and vi­o­lence — the emo­tional core of the best zom­bie flicks — is un­der­cut by the pre­dictable tale of Seok-woo’s per­sonal reck­on­ing with his in­ad­e­quacy as a fa­ther. On the other hand, the film’s sin­cer­ity and lack of cool, pol­ished he­roes is some­what re­fresh­ing, given the way such ma­te­rial is han­dled in Hol­ly­wood. Tacked onto movies hit­ting mul­ti­plexes now is a trailer for Res­i­dent Evil: The Fi­nal Chap­ter, the lat­est in the se­ries of zom­bie-bash­ers de­rived from the pop­u­lar video games. It’s an­other fo­cus-group tested, com­mit­tee-de­signed prod­uct brought to you by the se­quel-driven cor­po­rate movie ma­chine. At least the zom­bies in Yeon’s film are in front of the cam­era. — Jeff Acker

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