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International Film Rec: Train to Busan

So remember when I said I was always late to the party on international films? Yeah. That’s not changing anytime soon. Better late than never though, right? Thanks to Netflix, I’m a little less out of touch than before. There’s still some serious lag though, which is a shame. Thankfully, I was able to stumble across a movie that I really enjoyed. I found Train to Busan after hearing from a friend that Netflix had several South Korean films on tap that were really good. I scrolled through the selection and went with the best match for me as recommended by Netflix. It was a good choice.

The premise for Train to Busan isn’t anything new. This Yeon Sang-ho directed film has a simple premise: “what if the zombie apocalypse happened in South Korea, and the protagonists are all on a train”? It’s a simple concept that’s then well executed. The move clips along at a fast pace, and just when the confined setting of the train cars starts to feel too cramped, the passengers are given a chance to disembark (and face zombie hordes that, naturally, force them back onto the train). The confined setting actually works well. It forces the characters to get creative when dealing with the zombies. Another element that really raises the stakes here is that, unlike their counterparts on shows like The Walking Dead, the South Korean cast isn’t armed to the teeth. They don’t have guns or knives or crossbows. In fact, the only “weapons” available are baseball bats belonging to a plucky high school team. I was lowkey stressing the whole movie watching them duke it out with the zombies with nothing but their fists and fast thinking.

The film also has a strong family message that I can 100% rally behind. Gong Yoo, played by Seok Woo, is a divorced, workaholic father who has reluctantly agreed to take his daughter to visit her mother for her birthday. When the world starts ending, the train they’re on is rerouted to Busan where it’s allegedly safe. The strained relationship between father and daughter actually drew some real sympathy out of me. I think any child who’s had a parent that worked long hours will connect with the family narrative. Semi-spoilery aside: The ending for this movie had me all up in my feelings. If you watch it, you’ll know why.

There’s a lot in this film that’s already familiar to audiences: zombies, family tension, corrupt companies, and selfish people ruining things for everyone else. Train To Busan isn’t trying to throw a new twist in or reinvent the wheel here. It’s solid entertainment that has the right balance of action, suspense, and drama. If you’re looking for a film to occupy a Friday night and you’re not a subtitle snob, hop on the Train to Busan.