‘Train to Busan’ review: A zombie outbreak movie about humanity

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September 18, 2016 by Hope W.

Gong Yoo in Train to Busan

Gong Yoo in Train to Busan

Have you heard of Train to Busan? I can’t imagine that you haven’t, unless you have been living under a rock this past month. This is the Korean zombie movie that went viral — not zombie outbreak viral, but YouTube video viral — in that it did (and is still doing, in its 7th week of release) literally 10 times *better* than we could have ever dreamt. Korean movies generally don’t do well in Singapore, but this movie has earned five times more than the previous record holder for highest-grossing Korean movie in Singapore, which was 200 Pounds Beauty, released in 2006. It has even surpassed major Hollywood blockbusters in its earnings, and it is all due to the incredibly strong word-of-mouth that the movie has garnered. People just keep coming week after week after week, though the crowd is finally starting to slow down.

Ma Dong-seok, Gong Yoo and Choi Woo-sik in Train to Busan

Ma Dong-seok, Gong Yoo and Choi Woo-sik in Train to Busan

*Mild spoilers ahead! But if you haven’t watched it, you ARE missing out.*

You could perhaps credit its success to the fact that it’s a zombie movie, what with The Walking Dead being so popular and all; but World War Z, the Brad Pitt blockbuster about a zombie outbreak, which had a *far more* extensive marketing campaign in Singapore, did not earn as much (though a pretty good amount). Other Hollywood zombie movies have also never been anywhere near as well-received as Train to Busan. If anything, I think it was the human element of the movie that caused people to rave about it. In this apocalyptic zombie outbreak movie, you see how selfish people can be, how easily persuaded people can be to be ungracious and self-serving, yet how among all this selfishness, others can retain their humanity and generosity.

Jeong Yu-mi and Ma Dong-seok in Train to Busan

Jeong Yu-mi and Ma Dong-seok in Train to Busan

Even my parents liked the movie, and I never thought they would like a zombie movie. But they were touched, and reported other people in their theatre being similarly touched (re: sniffing and sobbing away). That’s the power of movies, not just to thrill, but also to reflect humanity — and not in the phony, feel-good way that most movies like to do it, but realistically, with all its flaws and sometimes unhappy endings.

Ahn So-hee in Train to Busan

Ahn So-hee in Train to Busan

It was gripping, thrilling and heartbreaking. I did not expect it to end so sadly, albeit with an element of hope (though maybe I should have, because it was pretty similar to Snowpiercer — also by a Korean director and set on board a train in the post-apocalypse, though that movie focused more on class warfare). For a moment there, it almost seemed like the show would end even bleaker, but thankfully it didn’t, because I can bet that the movie will not be doing half as well on an absolutely nihilistic ending. (I would be actively warning people away from the movie if that had been the case, because who the hell would want to watch a movie that’s so depressing and hopeless!)

As it is, there is this really stupid piggish man whom I wish died at the very beginning, because he is the reason for almost EVERYBODY’S death. But if he did, I guess we would be watching an entirely different movie, and probably one that wouldn’t have been as good.

Gong Yoo and Kim Soo-an in Train to Busan

Gong Yoo and Kim Soo-an in Train to Busan


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