I was wowed by this movie. This is one of the best zombie movies Ive seen all year. If you like The Walking dead and the Dawn of the Dead remake, you will like this movie. Once it gets started, and it gets started almost right away, it doesn’t let up til the end.
Now lets get this out of the way. The movie contains fast zombies. They run, twitch, growl and scream. So if you don’t like fast zombies, or hated 28 Days later, you can probably skip this. It also has a young child, and teenagers, who are constantly in danger. If you have trouble watching that sort of thing (sometimes I do) then I’m going to suggest skipping this, or watching this with a great deal of caution.
This is a harrowing movie, and every bit the movie that World War Z should have been, with some great setpieces. I got so attached to these characters, so fast, and spent several breathless moments wishing for their safety. Its been a while since I’ve been scared during a zombie movie, but this one is very effective. The zombies sense by sight, so there are more than a few suspenseful moments when the train passes through long tunnels, and it gets dark enough the zombies can’t sense the passengers, who find several ingenious ways to get past them in the train cars, like crawling above them along the luggage racks. You have to see this movie for the passengers as much as the zombie action.
Seon-Woo is a busy manager, who doesn’t seem to have much time for his daughter, so decides to take her to see her mother in Busan. During their trip by train, there’s a zombie breakout, the train is quickly overcome and Seon and his daughter spend most of the movie fighting their way through the train, off that train, onto another train, escaping a crashed train. Basically, its trains all the way there.
Seon is accompanied on this harrowing expedition by several people including a tough workman named Sang-hwa, a character I totally fell in love with, and his very pregnant wife, an elder businessman, who is a complete asshole because every zombie movie has to have at least one, a homeless man who followed the other passengers when they got off the train, and attached himself to Seon and his daughter, and the teenage members of a baseball team. Yes, they get to use their bats during a crucial scene.
I really enjoyed the message and characterizations in this movie. Earlier in the movie Seon had an opportunity to help Sang, and didn’t. Later Seon gets called on his behavior by his daughter, who questions why they aren’t helping others, and that’s not nice. When Sang meets up with Seon, he continues to give him shit for what he did to him and his wife, needling him for his selfishness.
Seon becomes more selfless as the movie progresses. The parallel with the villainous businessman is not lost on the viewer. In the beginning Seon’s focus is more on saving himself and his daughter, but he comes to care for others besides himself. This is not true of the selfish businessman, who is really just kind of a cartoon villain. He throws people to their deaths, leaves others behind to be eaten, and at one point, he screams a rant at a teenage girl, and gets the other train passengers to turn on Seon, and his little crew of survivors.
The movie is filled with touching moments of bravery and sacrifice. I rooted for Sang through most of the movie and wished he’d been the focus of the film, as Seon is a rather bland character, but that was the point, I think. Sang is brave and selfless from the moment we see him, fighting the zombies hand to hand to save the life of his wife, unborn child, and other passengers. At one point using his own body as a break against the zombies invading one of the train cars.
Seon has the greatest character arc, though. The kind of man who has nothing but contempt for the homeless, at one point, goes out of his way to save that man’s life, he fights side by side with Sang, goaded by Sang’s needling of his selfish behavior, when they first met, and goes toe to toe with the villainous businessman. Along the way his goal becomes making his daughter proud of him.
The only problem is that in the world of the zombie, none of this selflessness comes without a price, and selfishness doesn’t pay off too well, either. One of the most tearful moments was when a teenage boy gets bitten, and instead of leaving him, his girlfriend chooses to stay by his side, as he dies. She knows that when he turns, she’ll die, but she makes that sacrifice because she doesn’t want him to die alone, and he was bitten while saving her life.There’s a similar scene in the Dawn of the Dead remake, but in that movie, its much less effective. What starts as a train full of people finally gets whittled down to the villain, Sang’s pregnant wife, Seon, and Seon’s daughter.
The action is fast and frenetic, and the only quiet moments are at the beginning of the movie, or when the zombies get quiet, but that’s not much consolation because the tension just ratchets up during those moments. I can’t list all the great moments in this movie.
Now, its a zombie movie so there’s plenty of gore, and if you have anxiety issues, you may want to watch this in bits and pieces because it doesn’t ease up very much. It clocks in at two hours but its so fast paced that it just doesn’t feel that long.
I’m fully prepared to call this the best zombie movie of 2016, and its definitely going on my favorites list. This is an excellent choice for a Halloween Zombie marathon.