Zombies invade a train on the titular route.
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho
Starring Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, and Kim Su-an
Initial Review by Lane Davis
For me, two films come to mind—“Jurassic Park” which I saw when I was 12 and was one of those cinema experiences that make you fall in love with going to the movies. The second was “Speed,” which came out the next summer and which I think I saw at least three times in the theater and I definitely owned on VHS.
I start with this question because I first heard about “Train to Busan” about a year ago on NPR. They ran a story because “TtB” is, apparently, the quintessential Korean summer movie. It’s the highest grossing Korean film in that country’s history and, according to the NPR story a year ago, almost 1/5th of the whole South Korean population had seen the film, which is a pretty remarkable number. I was, at first, reluctant to pick another Korean film since we’ve already had “Okja” in our queue this round, but I really wanted to watch a summer movie, and so why not watch one of the most successful ones in recent years that so few in the US have seen?
But, with that being said, everything that makes a great summer movie is here in “TtB.” High speeds and explosions? Check. Danger around every corner? Check. People getting eaten? Check. Possible world extinction? Check. Add to that a smart social commentary that’s broad enough for all of us to understand (we all need to treat people better) but particular enough to say something important about its Korean context (apparently, the film is a pretty direct critique of the way corporations and the government tried to cover up the deaths of 300 kids in a ferry accident a few years ago). The summer blockbuster boxes are all checked here.
But where there’s a lack in originality, “TtB” makes up for it with believable characters, well acted, that actually make you care about what happens to them. You’re pretty sure by the end that there’s no hope for the world, but it didn’t stop me from really not wanting Seong-kyeong and Soo-an to get shot.
In the end, I’m a “TtB” fan because it gave me exactly what I expected: an entertaining excuse to stay inside on a really hot day.