A Korean zombie movie. Arrggh, right?
Now I love The Walking Dead, and while I am normally not a zombie-movie kind of person, that show has been my one exception. The Walking Dead is an extraordinary television series in America.
So when Korea releases a zombie movie, my interest is only mildly piqued; but when the movie has my all-time favorite Ma Dong-Seok starring in it, I’m easily convinced to at least give it a try.
And my first impression is: “HOLY SH*T. Korean Zombies RUN.”
That’s just not right. The only reason characters have lived thus far in The Walking Dead is because zombies are slow. Apparently, in Asia, zombies don’t even really eat people; they fly like Chinese martial arts characters and just want to bite into you to infect you, and as is the Asian way, once they bite you, it’s minutes to mere seconds before you break your back, turn, and start running and flying with incredible super-human powers in your death.
Train to Busan
WTF. It’s like Speed, mixed together with The Walking Dead in a thrilling 118 minutes—and dare I say it, it’s really, really good.
On the surface, it’s a typical zombie movie where an infection sets off something catastrophic as people turn into zombies all over Korea. But it’s also about humanity–both the good and bad side of humanity–and how in moments of true terror, people unite to help each other. It’s about there being more to life than capitalism.
Gong Yoo stars as the leading role in Train to Busan. He’s a well-educated, elite fund manager who has custody of a daughter (played by Kim Su-An, and the character’s name is also Soo-An) who has no time for children. He’s pretentious, self-centered, and a general workaholic who equates his success to his being better than others. In one of the beginning scenes, he has his secretary buy her a birthday present, and it turns out it’s the same game box he’d had purchased for her for Children’s Day just months before. Understandably, she wants to go back to her mother, and at her insistence that she can go by herself, her father finally makes the time to take her to her mother in Busan…on the train.
A woman infected with the zombie virus boards the train, not knowing what is happening to herself, and the rest, you can imagine.
I admit that I have an unhealthy fascination with Ma Dong-Seok. In every film/drama he has been in, I find him so….adorable. Like, cute. I realize it’s weird saying that such a big guy is “cute” but he is really, really cute and adorable. Like a big teddy bear you want to just cuddle with.
Like I said, unhealthy.
My personal favorite was his character in Bad Guys–a kdrama series I’ll review soon, especially since it’s one of my favorites. Somehow, some way, Ma Dong-Seok brings a very human dimension to his roles even when he’s playing a total a$$hole.
In Train to Busan, he’s on board the same train with his very pregnant wife, played by Jung Yu-Mi. Of all the things to be on a zombie-infested train, pregnant is about the last thing that you want to be. Both characters are well-played. Ma’s character is about as you’d expect–rough around the edges, a big brute, but caring and loyal. Jung’s character is small in stature but fierce with a will to live driven by the unborn child within her.
Kim Su-An does a wonderful job of playing the innocent girl who sees through her Dad’s weaknesses, and forces him, even during a zombie apocalypse, to act more like a human being. Nice performance by a young girl, whether she is terror-stricken or calm. Kim has a natural expression of being lost and helpless, and I thought she made the perfect actress for the role.
Train to Busan is a thriller, hands down. Grossing $100 million in theaters worldwide, it’s also well-made. While not necessarily a huge-budget film, it’s action-packed because of those insane running zombies, and despite the preposterous story (I don’t believe in zombies…do you?), it’s believable. The emotions that this film brings out in the audience is real, and the director makes sure you care about each character. While Gong Yoo is the big ticket actor and the lead, the real details, in my opinion, are in the supporting cast members.
Kim Eui-Sung offers a convincing performance as the villain, as if you need a villain when you have 25 million zombies flying around to kill you. He plays the role of a well-to-do businessman who is hellbent on getting home regardless of who gets killed in the process, with no regard for children or women and a singular focus of living himself.
I highly recommend this movie. It’s almost two-hours packed with action and while horrifying in certain parts, it’s also entertaining and really a good representation of what people do and how people act when frightened. It does a good job in showcasing which parts of our human nature are irrational, and what not to do when in a harrowing situation. Ma and Gong also show the best about human nature as well.
I’d say to put some steaks on the grill, camp out in front of the TV for dinner, and take one evening watching Train to Busan. You won’t regret it.